The second international airport of Nepal - Gautam Buddha International Airport - considered a national pride project built in Lumbini, formally came into operation today with domestic flights taking off from the new airport.

The country's first international airport, Tribhuvan International Airport, came into operation 74 years ago.

Yeti Airlines conducted the first flight from the new airport's 3,000-metre runway.

According to Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, both narrow body and wide-body aircraft will conduct flights to and from GBIA.

Director General of the CAAN Pradip Adhikari tweeted, "It is my pleasure to share the historic moment that Gautam Budhha International Airport has come into operation. Thank you all for their contributions.

This is a milestone for Nepali civil aviation."

Although, domestic airlines have started conducting flights from the newly-built airport, international flights will commence on May 16 to coincide with Buddha Jayanti.

According to CAAN Spokesperson Chandra Lal Karna, the old runway has been converted into taxiway.

He said an agreement had been reached between the CAAN and Jazeera Air of Kuwait to operate flights from the airport three days a week after international flights come into operation.

"If all goes well, Jazeera Air will conduct flights from the airport around midnight on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays after Buddha Jayanti,"

Karna told The Himalayan Times.

He said the newly-built airport would directly employ roughly around 300 people.

Stating that GBIA was constructed to accommodate parking for aircraft and as an alternative landing zone apart from TIA, CAAN Spokesperson Karna said the airport would also ease travel and make air commute cheaper.

He said an agreement had been reached with the Nepal Airline Corporation to conduct ground handling payments. Of the total payments collected by NAC, 15 per cent will be given to CAAN, Karna said.

"Of the total fuel sales collected from GBIA on a monthly basis, CAAN will receive 0.05 per cent of the earning," he added.

In terms of air routes, aircraft will conduct flights from the same routes used earlier.

By doing so, flight times to and from the airport will be reduced, making airfares cheaper for passengers, Karna stated.

The airport can be used as an alternative landing spot in case of emergency situations or if for any reason TIA is unsuitable for landing, he added.

With tourist arrivals increasing in recent days, residents around the airport hope that the COVID-battered tourism industry would steadily recover.

"We have been waiting for the completion of the airport for a very long time. With the start of its operation, tourism and other sectors of the region should flourish," Kushal Thapa, a resident of Rupandehi, said.

A version of this article appears in the print on April 22, 2022, of The Himalayan Times.