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Munich Airport tipped to be appointed consultant for Gautam Buddha International Airport

The government has decided to appoint Germany’s Munich Airport to provide consultancy services for the operational readiness and airport transfer (ORAT) operation of Gautam Buddha International Airport in Bhairahawa.

Located in south central Nepal, the Rs40 billion airport is the gateway to the international pilgrimage destination of Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautam Buddha. 

It is expected to be completed this year. As only finishing the construction work will not assure operational readiness, ORAT will play a big role in helping the new facility open on time. 

Sanjiv Gautam, director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, said that its board had approved the proposal to induct a foreign consultancy service for the ORAT operation of the airport, and that it had been sent to the Civil Aviation Ministry for approval. 

He added that reputed foreign airport operators would be inducted through a government-to-government deal. 

Multiple sources at the Civil Aviation Ministry and the Civil Aviation Authority confirmed that one round of negotiations had been completed with Munich Airport.

ORAT is the best way to ensure that every aspect of a new facility functions flawlessly right from day one. ORAT consultants work with airport stakeholders to formulate new processes, train staff, and test every single new system and procedure from passenger and baggage handling to airside operations. 

Some officials said that the government should fast track the process to bring the ORAT team. “If they arrive a year before the opening, they will have insufficient time to achieve many of the vital goals,” they said.  

On Monday, speaking at the Civil Aviation Authority’s 20th anniversary function, Civil Aviation Minister Rabindra Adhikari said they had initiated the process to induct a world-class airport operator to provide consultancy services for the operation of Gautam Buddha International Airport. “We have planned to award the operation management contract for the new airport through a government-to-government deal.”

According to ministry officials, the proposal to select Munich Airport has been tabled at the Cabinet for its in-principle approval. “After the approval, the government and Munich Airport will negotiate the financial and technical aspects of the operation before finalising the contract,” they said. “The operation time and service fees will be determined during the talks.”

It’s not clear whether the government will sign a long- or short-term consulting service contract. Sources privy to the matter said that the pact could be for at least four years. After that, the airport can be awarded to a private operator through a competitive bidding process. “The option to retain Munich Airport remains open.”

The government is under heavy pressure to improve the efficiency of the sole international airport in Kathmandu that is managed by the Civil Aviation Authority. Minister Adhikari said that it would be a test to see how efficiently Munich Airport operates the new airport. 

Munich Airport is the second busiest airport in Germany in terms of passenger traffic after Frankfurt Airport, and the seventh busiest airport in Europe, handling 44.6 million passengers in 2017.

Construction work at Gautam Buddha International Airport began in January 2015. The Civil Aviation Authority awarded the Rs6.22-billion contract to China’s Northwest Civil Aviation Airport Construction Group in November 2013. The airport was initially slated to be ready in December 2017. The project suffered multiple hurdles that pushed back the completion deadline several times. 

The government had planned to commence commercial operation of the international airport by July-August 2019 due to better-than-expected physical progress. But that does not look like happening due to delays in the implementation of the second phase of the project which involves installing Communications, Navigation and Surveillance (ANS) and Air Traffic Management (ATM) systems. The new airport is expected to be ready for business by 2019-end. The airport’s 3,000-metre-long and 45-metre-wide runway is scheduled to be ready by August.


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