EDITOTIAL: Passengers’ woes

Things can be improved upon greatly at the TIA by listening to the woes and concerns of the passengers as they surface

As the gateway to the Himalayan nation, Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) in Kathmandu creates the first impression on the visitor and probably a lasting one, too. Unfortunately, the only international airport of Nepal does more to discourage a passenger who has just arrived than welcome him. A passenger’s ordeal begins soon after stepping out of the terminal building to head home. The passengers have no option but to carry their luggage with them – at times on their pack -- as trolleys are not allowed to the parking lot, some 200 metres away or a 10 -minute walk. The parking lot was relocated to a new area two months ago in a bid to manage the parking congestion at the arrival and departure terminals. However, arriving passengers do not seem very happy, given that they have landed in Kathmandu after a tiring journey, some having been in the air for as many as 18 hours or more. This becomes all the more vexing in the evening as the road leading to the parking area is uneven and poorly lit. Once in the parking area, bargaining with the taxi driver to take you home is another nightmare in the waiting. The TIA handles about 40 incoming flights a day, which means more than 5,000 passengers must undergo the torment daily at the airport.

It’s not that the authorities are not doing anything to spruce up the airport and make things more convenient for the passengers. Things have definitely taken a turn for the better in recent times. The airport is neater than it used to be. Unlike in the past, baggage can be claimed much sooner and without hassle. And the airport is developing as a “boutique airport”, to be inaugurated on the Nepali New Year, on April 14. Modern technology has been introduced and traditional art works reflecting Nepal’s rich cultural heritage are on display. To make the airport aesthetically presentable, the advertisement boards are being cleared around the departure terminal and will soon disappear altogether from the airport. Passengers will also be able to enjoy free Wi-Fi and unlimited Internet. Despite all these efforts, the services and infrastructure at the airport are nothing close to international standard.

Next year is Visit Nepal 2020, with a focus on bringing two million foreign tourists to Nepal. The country last year saw more than a million tourists, so doubling that figure should not be that difficult. But Nepal is not after just one-time visitors, the country wants them to be repeat guests, like most tourists coming to Nepal. Let the TIA not be a handicap in bringing the desired number of visitors and creating a good impression about Nepal. The airport’s woes are many, and it behooves on the authorities to work with a sense of urgency to give the passengers, whether arriving or departing, a pleasant experience. The airport has its limitations, and it cannot be expected to meet international standards overnight. However, things can be improved upon greatly by listening to the woes and concerns of the passengers as they surface.  The TIA management says things will improve by the Nepali New Year. Let us give it the benefit of the doubt.

Dual pricing of LPG

The government has once again come up with the idea of implementing a dual pricing system for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) – one for household purpose and the other for commercial use. The state-owned Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) is all set to introduce red and blue colour LPG cylinders with different price tags. LPG to be used for commercial purpose will be costlier than that for household use.

Currently NOC provides a subsidy of Rs 80 per cylinder of LPG. The government had announced such a dual pricing system on LPG eight years ago. But it failed to materialise due to lack of enough homework by the NOC. NOC still does not have data about the amount of LPG used for both the purposes. The concerned authorities must take the bottlers into confidence to put this system into practice. It would be better if the bottlers were to supply LPG in cylinders of different sizes, one for household use and the other for commercial use. Both types of LPG cylinders should be designed in a manner that one cannot be used for another purpose. NOC should also introduce a law differentiating the pricing of both types of LPGs. Otherwise, chances of malpractice cannot be ruled out.  In the end, the success of the system lies in strict monitoring of the two-colour cylinders.