Foreign airlines urged to fly low-capacity aircraft to Nepal

Kathmandu, August 9

Owing to frequent damage to the runway at the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), the government has urged international airline companies to prioritise flying small aircraft to Nepal.

Amid a meeting with international airline operators in the Capital on Wednesday, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) formally requested them to reduce the number of flights to Nepal using wide-body aircraft.

“Along with the weakening base of the runway at TIA, increasing number of wide-body aircraft servicing the Kathmandu sector is one of the reasons behind runway damage. We have requested international airline companies to fly narrow-body aircraft to Nepal till the TIA undergoes complete rehabilitation,” informed Murari Bhandari, chief of Civil Engineering Department at TIA.

According to Bhandari, international airline operators are positive towards the request of TIA and CAAN.

As per TIA, almost 30 international airlines are operating regular flights to and from TIA. These airlines operate up to 90 flights (take-off and landing) via TIA every day and majority of them are flying wide-body aircraft - Airbus-330 and Boing-777.

As TIA has a single runway, it is obliged to withstand pressure of more than 350 domestic and international flights every day.

“The number of wide-body planes flying to Kathmandu has increased in the past few years while the capacity of the runway at TIA has remained same. In this context, the wide-body aircraft have been adding pressure to the runway, thereby resulting in frequent cracks,” added Bhandari.

Of the total international carriers operating in Kathmandu sector, more than two dozen international flights are operated using wide-body aircraft. Among others, Turkish Airlines, Korean Air, Thai Airways, Malaysia Airlines, FlyDubai, Qatar Airways, among others, have been operating wide-body aircraft at the TIA, according to Prem Nath Thakur, spokesperson for TIA.

This is the second time that the government has requested foreign airline companies to fly low-capacity aircraft. Earlier in 2015, the CAAN had urged foreign airline companies not to fly big aircraft to Nepal citing that such planes could damage the TIA runway, which was already vulnerable after the earthquake.

Thakur informed that wide-body aircraft pose bigger threat to the runway during summer as frequent rain and excessive heat lead to expansion of the runway and cause frequent cracks.

Meanwhile, TIA authorities informed that it plans to start the rehabilitation works of the runway as soon as possible. As complete rehabilitation of the runway at TIA is time-consuming and will hinder regular operation of domestic and international flights, the government plans to begin the runway rehabilitation process once the Gautam Buddha International Airport (GBIA) comes into operation. However, it is unclear when the operation of the GBIA will commence.