UAE carrier to start Nepal flights


Kathmandu : With the signing of a bilateral labour agreement between Nepal and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Etihad Airways of the UAE will start flights to Nepal this autumn.

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UAE labour minister Ali bin Abdullah Al Ka'abi winded up his three-day visit to Nepal Wednesday with the announcement that the Arab airline will start Dubai-Kathmandu flights from October 28, if things go as per schedule.

Currently, Etihad flies to 43 destinations in the Gulf, Europe, South Asia, North America and Oceania.

With the entry of Etihad, there will be four Arab airlines linking Nepal with the Gulf, a lucrative sector for airlines with tens of thousands of Nepalis heading there to work.

The other three are Qatar Airways, Gulf Air and budget airline Air Arabia. Nepal's national carrier Nepal Airlines also operates flights to Dubai.

This could mean increased competition for Air India, which is trying to woo Nepali workers going abroad to go via Indian cities.

Over 600,000 blue-collar Nepali workers are currently employed in the Gulf, with the UAE itself accounting for about 150,000.

UAE will also open a liaison office in Kathmandu to facilitate the flow of migrant workers and their recruitment.

Al Ka'abi, who signed a labour agreement with his Nepali counterpart Ramesh Lekhak, minister of state for labour and transport, said the pact would protect workers' rights.

It would prevent unscrupulous recruitment agencies from charging exaggerated fees and present misleading information about workers' qualifications and documents to potential employers.

Remittances sent by Nepali workers overseas have been the mainstay of the economy battered by a decade of insurgency and political instability. But the foreign labour industry in Nepal is reported to be full of corruption, with workers being duped regularly.

Senior officials, including the kin of the current prime minister and an ex-premier, have been facing recruitment fraud charges.

The labour agreement will also enable Nepali workers in the UAE to move the Emirates' courts to settle grievances.