Stranded Australians and New Zealanders have been welcomed back to Australia this morning on board Nepal Airlines Flight RA4133 from Kathmandu, via Kuala Lumpur. The airline evacuated a total of 281 passengers from Nepal consisting of 127 Australian citizens, 149 Australian permanent residents and 5 New Zealand citizens.
Operated by an Airbus A330-243 delivered to Nepal Airlines in June 2018, the flight departed KTM at 1420 on the 6th of May, transiting in KUL and departing at 2220 local, for a 0753 touch down in SYD on the 7th of May.
The return flight, RA4134, departed Sydney just before 1000 this morning carrying 30,000 COVID-19 testing kits to support the country’s efforts in combatting the virus. This has left the stranded Nepalese community in Australia with sheer frustration, as the flight back to Nepal is not for sale and will return empty.
However, this doesn’t come as a surprise, as the Nepalese government is backing its decision to prevent anyone entering the country, including its own citizens. This arrangement is set to be reconsidered on the 15th of May.
The Australian Embassy had been working with Nepal Airlines in April to operate two extra flights to Sydney to repatriate Australians and New Zealanders from Nepal, with the 3rd flight scheduled to depart Kathmandu on the 15th of May. Though, due to the inconsistencies of those requesting flights back home, the Embassy and Nepal Airlines have cancelled this flight until further notice.
According to the Australian Embassy in Nepal, almost 600 people registered to the Embassy their intent to fly back to Australia, however almost 40% of the those registered declined due the hefty $2500 price tag. The rest did not answer emails or phone calls from the Embassy, whilst the others assumedly flew on the second flight.
Previously, Nepal Airlines had shown interest in direct flights to Australia. Nepal signed a bilateral air services agreement with Australia on 30SEP19 with the permission to serve up to seven flights per week using Airbus A330-200 aircraft.
Hopefully with some negotiation and further communication, Nepal Airlines will be able to operate the 3rd repatriation flight and also collect and bring home some of the Nepalese that are still stranded in Australia.