Kathmandu, April 16
Refuting allegations that it knowingly left Minister for Communications and Information Technology Gokul Prasad Baskota stranded in Bhairahawa airport on Monday night, Buddha Air has clarified that it was not the company’s intention to do so.
As per a statement issued by Buddha Air, the scheduled flight which was supposed to depart Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) for Bhairahawa at 4:00 pm had been rescheduled for 7:00 pm as flights on Monday were delayed due to the bad weather and also the ongoing maintenance works of the runway at TIA. The TIA is closed between 10:00 pm and 8:00 am at present for maintenance works.
The statement adds that the rescheduled flight had landed at Bhairahawa airport at 7:32 pm and was scheduled to fly back to the Capital at 8:00 pm. Buddha Air has claimed that the aircraft did takeoff only at 8:00 pm and Minister Baskota had not arrived at the airport till then. The flight was carrying 68 other passengers.
“As soon as the flight had departed TIA, our officials at Bhairahawa airport had coordinated with the concerned security personnel, but we were informed that the minister would not be flying on the respective flight,” the statement reads, adding that a request had been made for a reservation for next morning’s (today) flight.
However, Minister Baskota has refuted claims made by Buddha Air and said that the airline intentionally left him and his team stranded.
“This is a wrong practice and incident needs to be investigated by concerned authorities,” he stated.
“I had been following entire flight schedule of Buddha Air, but they did not inform me when the plane took off from Kathmandu,” he said.
“They only informed me after plane had landed at Bhairahawa airport.”
As per Baskota, he has informed Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) about the entire incident. “I seek an investigation into the entire issue and if required concerned authority can verify my claims through my call details and also of airport officials, security officials and airline representatives,” he said, adding it is unclear whether the airport is being operated by CAAN or airline companies.
“It looks like Buddha Air enjoys a monopoly in that sector and is doing whatever it feels like,” he further stated. “If the airline can behave with me, a minister, in this way, one can only imagine the plight of other normal passengers.”
As per Baskota, he had reached the airport at 8:00pm, but flight had already departed and he had to return to the hotel he was staying in.
Meanwhile, Buddha Air has said if the plane had been further delayed and was not able to take off at scheduled time, then it would have to bear all the food and accommodation expenses of 68 passengers onboard. “Safety and timely flights are our priority and the decision is made by our management.”
A version of this article appears in print on April 17, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.