Nepal | May 25, 2020

TIA’s extended operation yet to show results

Umesh Poudel
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Kathmandu, June 6

Seems like it could take months before the government’s aim of easing traffic congestion by extending the operation hours at the sole international airport of the country — Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) — can be realised, as airline companies normally prepare their flight schedule every six months.

“Currently the airline companies are operating their flights as per their earlier schedule, which means there are no scheduled flights in the three-hour extended slot,” said Raj Kumar Chhetri, general manager of TIA.

On May 21, the TIA started to operate for 21 hours a day. Earlier, the airport used to operate for 18 hours a day, that is, from 6:00am to midnight. Now, with the three-hour extension, TIA remains open for business between 6:00 am and 3:00 am the next day.

One TIA official, seeking anonymity, said that the decision to operate the international airport for 21 hours daily seems to have been rushed and not really thought through. “While launching the extended hours, Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Rabindra Adhikari and other government officials had given the impression that the congestion at TIA would be a thing of the past from the very next day. More than two weeks down the line, the traffic situation has pretty much remained the same, while the staffers have nothing to do between midnight and 3:00am.”

But going by the information provided by Chhetri, the situation could change.

“Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC), Jet Airways and Qatar Airways have hinted at rescheduling their regular flights in the extended three hours after some time,” he stated, adding that NAC had successfully landed one international flight around 1:00am on Tuesday. The flight was, however, not scheduled to arrive in the extended hours and had been delayed.

Bindita Singh, media and marketing head of Qatar Airways Nepal office, affirmed that the airline is mulling over rescheduling its late-night flights in the time slot between midnight and 3:00am considering the traffic congestion at the TIA starting late afternoon. “However, nothing has been fixed yet.”

NAC officials also confirmed the plans of the national flag carrier to operate its fleet in extended hours. “We will most probably initiate regular flights in extended hours after four months,” said Rabindra Shrestha, NAC spokesperson.

According to Shrestha, operating international flights in the extended time at the TIA is not a big deal. “But at the same time, getting a slot (for landing, takeoff and parking) in the foreign destination out of the regular schedule is very difficult, especially because all international airports normally revise their flight schedules only every six months.”

Altogether, 30 international carriers and 20 domestic airlines (including helicopter companies) operate regular flights to and from TIA.

The airport sees approximately 400 take-offs and landings a day — both domestic and international. TIA has the capacity of handling 1,500 passengers at once, but is forced to deal with around 2,500 passengers during peak hours at present.

A version of this article appears in print on June 07, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.

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