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Private airline (Tashi Air) to resume domestic service in October February 9, 2014

Bhutan;Tashi Air: The private airline, Tashi Air, will resume its domestic flight services in October this year, information and communications minister, DN Dhungyel, said at the national council’s question hour session yesterday.

Trashiyangtse council representative, Tashi Phuntsho, had asked when the domestic flights would resume.
He also questioned why the ministry allowed Tashi Air to violate the terms and conditions of licensing, which was solely for domestic flights, by allowing it to go international.
The minister said, after studying what had transpired between Tashi Air and the previous government, it was found that the private airline had not violated the terms and conditions of the request for proposal (RFP).
Initially, the RFP was invited for selection of one operator to commence domestic air services in the country.
Following evaluation, International Civil Aviation Organisation experts carried out, Tashi Air private ltd was recommended for the domestic operation.

Druk Air, with its “articles of incorporation” permitting to fly domestic routes, was also allowed to take part.
Subsequently, the then communications minister submitted to the cabinet the evaluation report. On December 14, the cabinet decided to allow Druk Air and Tashi Air to operate flights.
“This was done to give more choice to the people,” communications minister said, adding the domestic flight started on December 17, 2011.

However, already coupled with large operational cost because of low passenger volume, lyonpo said the private airline reported huge losses competing with Druk Air’s ATR 48-seater plane.
In June 2012, Tashi Air suspended its domestic flight.
Later, the communications minister said Tashi Air was allowed to operate international flights mainly to subsidise the domestic sector.

He said, after financial institutions refused loan because of the financial crunch, Tashi Air requested for approval to sell the aircraft and allow it to operate international, leaving the domestic sector to Druk Air.
“The government duly granted it,” he said.

Tashi Air started its international flights in October 2013.
“It was allowed to start international operations on the condition that it would start domestic services in October this year,” lyonpo said, adding they initially decided for March this year.
However, Tashi Air had requested for time extension, which was granted.

Lyonpo DN Dhungyel said, currently, Tashi Air is looking for an appropriate aircraft.
Meanwhile, eminent member of council, Tashi Wangyal, also asked the minister what would the government do if the services didn’t resume in October.

Communications minister said it was something that they were also concerned about.

“It’s just the second month right now,” he said. “We have to act according to the situation.”
He said they would have to discuss measures to be taken against the airline if it missed the October deadline.
On the question Gasa council representative Sangay Khandu raised, regarding aircraft safety with increased flight frequencies over the years, lyonpo said the ministry already proposed for additional trainings of technicians and air-worthiness officers to the government.

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