Himalaya Airlines, a Nepal-China joint venture airline, has been operating two weekly flights to Dammam, Saudi Arabia. Prior to the second prohibitory order, Himalaya Airlines had been offering 10 direct flights to Dammam in Saudi Arabia since September 1, 2017. With the recent resumption of flights, the flow of passengers flying to Damman has surged for which the airlines has increased the number of flights to four per week effective from July 11.
With regards to the current situation, there have been misleading news reports and allegations across the digital news platforms, falsely accusing the airlines of airfare cartelisation claiming the airline is charging high air fares for Kathmandu to Dammam flights and the stay-in quarantine facilities which were mandated by Saudi Arabia as well as Nepal government.
Himalaya Airlines in a statement has mentioned that such reports are baseless and misconstrued without proper facts and verification. The governments of Nepal and Saudi Arabia had published mandatory regulatory guidelines which defined unavoidable fare inclusive of stay-in quarantine facilities and related COVID-19 health facilities. In compliance with the guidelines, the airline launched a bundled fare with all the essential facilities to operate flights in this sector. Himalaya Airlines has stated that its bundled fare includes airline base fare, all regulatory taxes, airport to hotel transport charges, seven-night hotel room charges (breakfast, lunch, dinner included), and two PCR tests on arrival at Dammam.
As per the Saudi Arabian government guidelines, individual passengers are not allowed to self-quarantine and are mandated to stay in specific quarantine facilities allocated by the Saudi government. Hence, this has led to airfares being more expensive compared to the regular unbundled fares. For further clarification, the airlines would like to mention that the additional hotel quarantine charges for Dammam contribute 60 per cent of the fare while the airfare contributes to only 40 per cent of the total cost. The airlines has been ensuring free revalidation of tickets for passengers with valid return tickets for any sector and also for those who were previously unable to fly due to flight suspensions.
The airline has said it wants to draw the attention of all the media agencies and news portals that have been publishing false information without prior verification of facts from the concerned stakeholders. There has been a growing tide of false news and propaganda being spread across social media and news portals regarding the situation and the airlines says it would like to request the general public to be wary of news published by unverified sources and come to a conclusion only after validating the facts through the airlines. We would also like to request the media industry to be more cautious and sensitive and publish only factual news considering the overall progress of the communication, information, and broadcasting industry, which should at all times benefit the public, companies, and the government.