Bhutan and Singapore will establish an air services agreement (ASA) next week, according to the department of civil aviation (DCA).
The agreement will allow national airline, Drukair and upcoming private airline, Tashi Air, the rights to fly to Singapore. A civil aviation team from Singapore will arrive in the country today to work out technical details of the ASA, prior to a final agreement on Wednesday.
Drukair plans to operate to Singapore twice a week from March next year, according to the airline’s commercial manager, Tshering Penjor. But he said that this would also depend on when Drukair is able to acquire a third airbus jet. Drukair will also have the rights to operate to Singapore through Kolkata, India and Dhaka, Bangladesh.
A representative for Tashi Air said that its international destinations will only be worked out once the airline’s domestic obligations are fulfilled. The private airline’s aircraft is expected to arrive in the first week of October.
DCA director general, Phala Dorji, pointed out that an added benefit to an ASA with Singapore would be obtaining training opportunities for Bhutanese aviation officials.
The aviation sector is a key component of the Singaporean economy, and its civil aviation authority is also major provider of training for international aviation management personnel. Bhutanese airlines will also be able to use Singapore for its high level of aircraft maintenance and repair services. “This will go a long way in terms of benefits,” said Phala Dorji. The director general also pointed out that Singapore had initiated the ASA.
Bhutan now has ASAs with seven countries: Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Burma, Nepal, Thailand, and now, Singapore. Phala Dorji said that DCA is under instructions to establish as many ASAs as possible. He said that DCA is currently focused on establishing ASAs with all SAARC countries. Bhutan does not have ASAs with Pakistan and Afghanistan. He added that Qatar had recently expressed interest in establishing an ASA with Bhutan.
While ASAs can be established, it is up to airlines whether a route will be formed and operated. Drukair does not operate to the Maldives and has discontinued its Burma stopovers. Drukair is currently focused on expanding its services to and within India, where domestic passenger traffic is growing at a rapid pace. Passenger traffic between Paro and India increased 26 per cent in 2010. The international air transport association (IATA) ranked India’s domestic passenger traffic growth second (14 percent) globally for the month of June. Drukair is considering establishing routes to the cities of Bangalore and Mumbai.
The national airline is also looking at establishing a Hong Kong, China route.