KATHMANDU, DECEMBER 12
Air travel to and from Nepal will be more costly beginning December 15 after the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal imposes a new travel insurance policy for all passengers arriving to and departing from the country.
According to Gyanendra Bhul, deputy manager at Air Transport Department, CAAN has already written to all airlines operating international flights to and from Nepal, requesting them to activate COVID-19 insurance policy for all passengers.
As per the conditions set by the CAAN, it requires to cover hotel quarantine for up to 14 days and medical expenses of 5,000 US dollars, if needed, of all age groups of passengers in case they contract COVID-19 during travel. “CAAN has directed all international airlines to follow the specified conditions compulsorily with effect from December 15,” Bhul said.
According to him, the insurance policy of passengers will be claimed from local insurers in Nepal. Stakeholders, however, claimed that the new insurance policy would only spike travel cost and ultimately discourage tourists from visiting the country.
“Not only foreign tourists, Nepalis flying for different international destinations will also suffer from this ‘impractical’ policy,” they said.
International airlines operators have also condemned CAAN for issuing such a circular.
“We are not travel insurance companies,” an airline operator said. According to him, countries may ask for insurance documents for entry as they ask for visa, but not airlines. “We can’t force anybody for an insurance cover,” the airliners’ representative said, adding that the insurance provision could be an entry rule for a country, but airlines cannot enforce it on their own.
President of Nepal Association of Tour Operators Ashok Pokharel termed the CAAN move incoherent and ‘bordering on insanity’. According to him, there may be justification in asking arriving passengers to produce proof of insurance covering quarantine and hospitalisation payable in Nepal and asking airlines to confirm this during check-in at origin, but it’s completely illogical to ask departing passengers to produce the same.
“What good is a locally payable insurance plan to someone in hospital in a foreign land? Moreover, destination countries have their own requirements. So, passengers need to have multiple insurance policies now? Where does this madness stop? When are we going to stop making policies based on knee-jerk reactions instead of a coherently formulated scientifically thought out and practical process?” Pokharel questioned.
Secretary-cum-treasurer of Pacific Asia Travel Association Suman Pandey also criticised the CAAN decision, saying it would be a big blow to the country’s tourism sector which was hit hard by the COV- ID pandemic.
A version of this article appears in the print on December 13, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.