"Nepal Airlines Pursues Costly 'Wet Lease' Amid 50 Billion Debt Woes"

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Kathmandu,Nepal: Struggling under a staggering debt of 50 billion rupees, Nepal Airlines Corporation has launched a global tender seeking two narrow-body aircraft for 'wet lease'. This move comes as the corporation's own fleet remains grounded, with plans to outsource aircraft operations for financial gain.

Issuing the notice on Tuesday, the corporation invited ship manufacturing, operating, and leasing companies to submit proposals by March 22. Prior to the tender, the corporation's top management and directors had already solicited financial bids from several firms.

The decision to pursue a 'wet lease' arrangement, where aircraft come with crew and operational support, has drawn criticism internally. An employee likened the situation to the Lauda Air scandal of 23 years ago, where the corporation leased an unnecessary Boeing 767 at exorbitant rates, resulting in financial losses.

Now, facing similar debt concerns, the move to lease aircraft externally while leaving owned ships grounded has raised eyebrows. Despite objections from loan providers like the Employees' Savings Fund and Citizens' Investment Fund, executive chairman Yuvraj Adhikari pushes ahead with the plan, allegedly enticing support from Tourism Minister Sudan Kirati.

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The proposed 'wet lease' terms involve a guaranteed flight time of 7 hours per day, potentially exacerbating the corporation's financial burden. The tender outlines a rate of $3,000 per hour, amounting to approximately $630,000 per month for one aircraft. With provisions for automatic renewal, each leased vessel could cost the corporation up to 1 billion rupees annually.

In 'Wet Lease' agreements, leasing companies provide aircraft with crew, while fuel and passenger amenities remain their responsibility, further complicating the financial implications for Nepal Airlines Corporation.

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