Kathmandu, March 31
Domestic airline companies have issued a travel alert as the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) will remain shut for 10 hours from Monday evening. Due to the runway rehabilitation and expansion work the airport will remain closed from 10pm to 8am every day for 45 days till June 30. Based on a notice to airmen (NOTAM) issued by the TIA, airline companies have issued a travel alert about the changes in their flight schedule.
Yeti Airlines and Tara Air have reduced around 13 flights per day including six mountain flights. The companies said one regular flight to Bhairahawa, Tumlingtar and Bharatpur has been reduced till the next notice is issued. Likewise, two flights to Bharatpur and two flights to Pokhara have also been reduced from the regular schedule.
Similarly, Buddha Air issued its travel alert on March 26 informing about its rescheduled flights. “For instance, we have revised the time schedule for flights and currently we are not planning to cut the number of regular flights,” said Rupesh Joshi, marketing director of Buddha Air. He further said that if rescheduling flights works then they will not cut down the flight numbers but if it does not work out then they will also be cutting down a few flights. “We are trying as much as we can to operate all our flights,” he said, adding flights of Buddha Air will operate from 8am to 8:30pm till June 30.
Likewise, Simrik Air has already issued its travel alert a month back cancelling its pre-booked flights to Lukla airport. Meanwhile, almost all mountain flights to be conducted from Kathmandu for the coming 45 days have been cancelled. Although the TIA has permitted operation of mountain flights after 8am the airline company said that it will be too late to operate mountain flights from 8am.
At the same time, all flights to Lukla airport from TIA have been diverted to the Manthali airport of Ramechhap.
Passengers travelling to Lukla have to first reach Ramechhap to take their Lukla flights. Airline companies have cancelled all flights to Lukla that had been pre-booked for this spring season.
As all flights to Lukla have been diverted to Manthali airport, trekking entrepreneurs have said that the decision to start maintenance works in the beginning of the tourist season is not a wise move. However, TIA has said that runway rehabilitation and maintenance is a very sensitive work. It has clarified that maintenance works are not feasible during the monsoon or winter season, hence the decision to complete the works in the spring season.
TIA’s runway was built in 1975. As per international practice, runways of international airports should be refurbished with new bitumen every 10 years. However, TIA has never done that.
This makes the latest maintenance work at the tarmac the biggest since its construction.
A Chinese company, China National Aero Technology International Engineering Corporation, is working on this project.
A version of this article appears in print on April 01, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.