Korean Air arrives in Kathmandu

Kathmandu, November 13:

Nepali aviation sector today witnessed yet another milestone, as Korean Air began its scheduled operations and became the third international airline to start flying to Kathmandu within a month.

The 301-seater Boeing 777 aircraft of Korean Air landed at Tribhuvan International Air (TIA) at 2.30 pm carrying 261 passengers and senior officials of the airline and left for Seoul at 5.55 pm with 126 passengers.

Korean Air is the third international airline to launch its scheduled operations to Kathmandu after GMG Bangladesh and Air Arabia of UAE. The airline will be operating Seoul-Kathmandu-Seoul flights once a week on Monday, using wide-bodied Boeing 777 aircraft.

Mohan Adhikari, director general at Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) termed the start of Korean Air’s operation as a ‘historic moment’ for the Nepali aviation sector, which would boost the economies of the two countries and strengthen people-to-people ties.

“We are happy to operate a Kathmandu flight. This marks a historic moment for us to have our presence at the land of Mt Everest,” said Chul Hahm, managing vice-president of Korean Air. He further stated that the operation of airline to Kathmandu would be served best in the interest of both airlines and Nepali tourism industry.

Hahm said that the initial plan of the airline was to operate chartered flights between Seoul and Kathmandu. “But we are encouraged by the changed scenario and the positive developments. We hope to serve passengers flying to and from long haul destinations like US and Europe, where we have better connectivity,” he added.

He also informed that the airline would soon increase its frequency to Kathmandu, which is likely to come into effect from March next year at the earliest, or by October.

Korean Air, with a fleet of 118 aircrafts, operates flights to 91 cities in 32 countries with an average daily 400 flights. The airline is among top 10 largest airlines and No 1 in air cargo service, according to IATA.

Roshan Shrestha, marketing director at Universal Tours and Travels, which is the general sales agent for the airlines in Nepal, expressed hope that the airline would be able to bring in more tourists, as it serves Nepal’s major tourist generating markets in the Southeast Asia, Europe and the US.

Meanwhile, Prem Narayan Sharma, chief immigration officer at TIA said that with increased flights, handling of immigration service has become hectic due to lack of manpower. “Although, the increased number of flights and tourists are good for the country, we are not being able to swiftly process immigration formalities,” he said, adding that human resource at TIA immigration should at least be doubled at the peak tourist season.

According to him, there are about 15 officials working at TIA immigration (both in departure and arrival sections) and passengers need to spend about one to two hours to clear the immigration formalities. “It is really hectic between 1pm to 5pm, when most of the international flights land at TIA,” he said.