Aviation: The government is yet to make a decision on whether to grant private airline Tashi Air a two-year deferment to recommence domestic air services.

The airline had appealed for a deferment in October last year, when it was supposed to resume domestic operations.

While the government had decided in April that Tashi Air must recommence domestic operations as per its initial agreement, the airline reiterated its appeal for a two-year deferment on grounds that its international services are still in the red and that it needed time to find a new aircraft for domestic operations.

Information and communications minister, DN Dhungyel said that the issue had been submitted to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) for detailed legal advice.

Lyonpo said that the entire issue has to be restudied and that after the OAG provides its legal advice, the cabinet would then carry out a detailed discussion.

With a little more than year left until October, next year, almost 50 percent of the required deferment has already passed.

Lyonpo said that as and when the cabinet makes a decision, appropriate time would be provided to Tashi Air to resume domestic services. This appropriate time period would be determined by the Bhutan Civil Aviation Authority, he added.

Lyonpo pointed out that the ministry is yet to hear from the OAG, most likely because it is over burdened. He said that the revised aviation Act had also been submitted to the OAG for review but that the ministry was yet to receive any feedback.

The government decided earlier this year that both airlines must begin flying to the recently certified Gelephu domestic airport by November, this year.

While the government and the two airlines are in agreement that the domestic market is not large enough for two airlines, the national airline, Drukair had announced in June that it would continue to operate in the domestic market, and that Tashi Air should as well, on grounds that competition in the domestic sector would be as beneficial as it has been in the international sector.

Gyalsten K Dorji