The national airline, Drukair, has added a new destination to its international flight operations.
Starting today, Drukair will start operating chartered flights to Dili in East Timor from Singapore. The flight operates upon the arrival of the scheduled flights to Singapore.
This is the first time the national airline would be crossing the equator for commercial operations.
The charter operation between Singapore and Dili is initially for a period of one year, with two chartered flights every week.
Officials from the airline said that the new long-term charter operation was started to increase the aircraft utilisation.
Airline officials said that given the difficult geographical terrain at the Paro international airport, Drukair has been exploring opportunities to increase its aircraft utilisation.
Drukair’s chief executive officer, Tandi Wangchuk, said that the airline has also been exploring charter opportunities during the night halts for a long time.
“I hope this venture ushers more such opportunities in the future,” he said, adding that the more efficiently an aircraft is utilised, the operational cost reduces for the airline. “Further it gives immense pride that a small airline in the Himalayas is crossing the equator for the first time.”
Other new routes to Vietnam, Indonesia, Taipei and Penang in Malaysia are also being explored.
Drukair is also waiting for the signing of the Air Service Agreement (ASA) between Bhutan and Japan to open the Tokyo operations and the signing with the Indian government to start operating flights to Dubai via Delhi.
Officials said that all the agreements would be placed by the first half of 2020 and operations to Japan and Dubai could begin by the third quarter of next year.
However, even as the airline expands its international destinations, dark clouds surround the aviation sector today.
Kuensel learnt that the Korean government had refused any airline originating from Bhutan to land in Korea for safety reasons. The Korean authorities had refused chartered flights from Bhutan or leave Korea for Bhutan.
Asked if this should be a cause for concern for the growth of airline, Drukair asked Kuensel to contact Bhutan Civil Aviation Authority (BCAA). BCAA was not available for comment.
It was learnt that last year the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) issued a Significant Safety Concern (SSC) memo to the BCAA for not meeting safety standards in line with the international standard.
The memo was issued because the Air Traffic Office (ATO) in Paro was not managed by ICAO certified/trained people as required.
Meanwhile, Drukair would be receiving a new Airbus A320 Neo in the first quarter of 2020.
Currently the national airline has four aircrafts – three Airbuses and a recently added ATR 42-600 that replaced the aging ATR 42-500.