Europe Moves One Step Closer To Unbanning Nepal Airways

A longstanding ban on Nepali airlines flying into European Union nations may be moving closer to resolving. The European Union’s aviation safety watchdog slapped down the ban in 2013, citing safety concerns. Now, seven years later, Europe is looking at eventually removing the ban.

Nepal is slowly inching towards lifting its European Union flight ban. Photo: Ashish Magar via Pixabay

On Monday, the European Union praised Nepal’s efforts to address real or perceived safety issues in that country.

“The Commission is aware of the efforts that have been undertaken by the country, notably as regards the proposed new aviation legislation currently before Nepal’s Parliament,” the European Union said in a press release.

“This would allow the Commission to advance with the process of eventually removing Nepal from the EU Air Safety List.”

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High accident rate lead to the European Union ban

Before the 2013 ban, Europe had concerns about Nepal’s high accident rate and wanted a revision of civil aviation policies. While there were on average two air crashes a year in Nepal between 2008 and 2012, a catalyst appears to have been a Sita Air crash in 2013 that killed 19 people, including seven Britons.

“The current safety situation in Nepal does not leave us any other choice than to put all of its carriers on the EU air safety list. We do hope that this ban will help the aviation authorities to improve aviation safety,” said Siim Kallas, European Commission Vice-President responsible for transport in 2013.

The 2012 Sita Air crash also heavily influenced the European Union ban. Photo: Getty Images

As a result, Nepali airlines were and remain prohibited from flying into or within European Union airspace. In reality, this has had a minimal day-to-day impact. Only a couple of Nepalese airlines fly internationally. Only Nepal Airlines ever ventured towards Europe. Historically, the airline had flown variously to Amsterdam, Vienna, Paris, Frankfurt, and London Gatwick.

This year, the European Union ban seems to have cost Nepal Airlines the opportunity to operate repatriation flights from Europe.

Nepalese Parliament needs to split local aviation safety watchdog

The European Union wants the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) overhauled before considering lifting the flight ban. Part of that overhaul includes splitting CAAN into two, separating regulatory and service provider roles. Despite saying they would do so, Nepal’s Government has not yet done this.

However, The Kathmandu Post is today reporting that the Nepalese Parliament hopes to table legislation to split CAAN at the next parliamentary sitting.

Nepal Airlines once operated flights to various European cities. Photo: Pedro Aragao via Wikimedia Commons

Before the European Union can take Nepal off the banned list, they have to meet with CAAN in Brussels to review its progress. There will also be a Nepal visit by EASA officials and air safety experts from various European countries. The European Union says this visit is needed in order is needed to determine the effective implementation of the safety enhancements.

“The European Commission with the assistance of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), will deliver concrete and demand-driven technical assistance to the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal in order to support Nepal’s efforts to enhance the aviation safety oversight in Nepal,” said the European Union press release.

Meanwhile, Nepal isn’t all alone when it comes to European Union bans. Nearly 100 airlines from various nations can’t land in or overfly Europe. The European Union says the list isn’t meant to be punitive. Rather, as with Nepal, they want to work with countries and airlines to have them taken off the list.