Kathmandu, January 13
Talk of turning Tribhuvan International Airport into a boutique airport sounds like a flight of fancy when one takes into account the inconvenience faced by passengers arriving at TIA’s international terminal, as they are compelled to trudge along with their luggage to the parking lot that was recently relocated to an inconvenient area following the tourism minister’s diktat.
With the opening of the new parking area nearly two months ago, the TIA management has barred private vehicles from waiting in front of the arrival area and restricted passengers from using trolleys to ferry their baggage to the parking lot, which is about 200 metres away from the arrival zone. The problem gets worse at night as the road leading to the parking lot is uneven and is not properly lit up.
“This is ridiculous management from TIA. When people come from abroad they come with heavy luggage and carrying it to the parking lot is annoying,” said Laxman Sharma, who arrived today from Malaysia. He shuddered to imagine the plight of a sick passenger carrying heavy luggage.
With TIA handling at least 40 incoming flights with over 5,000 passengers daily, Sharma is not the only one facing this problem.
Ganesh Thapaliya, whose daughter returned to Kathmandu today from Canada, told THT that it was a horrible experience carrying the baggage on his back for over 10 minutes. “Passengers are already tired of the journey, which at times lasts more than 12 hours,” he added.
Such hassles are certain to affect reviews of TIA and may also hit tourist arrivals at a time when the government has pledged to bring in two million tourists in 2020.
As TIA provides the first glimpse of the country to foreign tourists upon their arrival, stakeholders have been urging the government to make the arrival a pleasant experience.
Suraj Vaidya, national coordinator of Visit Nepal 2020 campaign, said TIA should render the best services possible as it is here that foreign tourists get the first experience of Nepal. He hoped things would change for the better in future.
CEO of Nepal Tourism Board Deepak Raj Joshi said despite government prioritising TIA in recent months, services and infrastructure at the airport are still not on par with international standards.
An airlines representative wondered why TIA decided to shift parking to a new area, which is still not fully developed. “What else could be the purpose behind TIA ignoring travellers’ concerns and leasing the parking area for 30 years, except the greed for commission?”
Raj Kumar Chhetri, general manager of TIA, said passengers were barred from taking trolleys to the parking area as it was difficult to bring the trolleys back due to the steepness of the road leading to the parking area. However, he is least bothered about the trouble passengers face going down the steep road with baggage on their backs. Chhetri assured THT that the passenger arrival area for the international terminal would be shifted to the zone linking the vehicle parking area beginning Nepali New Year (mid-April). He urged passengers to bear the hassle until then.
A version of this article appears in print on January 14, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.