As Nepal gets closer to its biggest tourism campaign Visit Nepal Year 2020, the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) poses a big challenge in the form of air traffic congestion.
The airport is currently running out of space and is receiving an ever-increasing number of flights, whose operations are not being managed properly.
The issue of ‘Aircraft put on hold’ has become common at TIA. Adding to its woes, a Nepali Airlines Corporation (NAC) aircraft arriving from New Delhi on November 12, 2019 remained stuck at the taxiway for close to one hour as the parking bay was out of space.
“Lack of schedule management also causes aircraft being put on hold during both take-off and landing,” said Doleshwar Koirala, Ground Support Director, NAC.
The NAC explained that these instances are common during peak tourism season. “TIA has always grappled with parking issues and since it is the tourist season we face this hassle,” said Sulekh Mishra, Joint Spokesperson for NAC.
“TIA has been operating beyond its capacity since long and there are plans of more airline companies flying to Kathmandu, which will definitely compound the problem,” adds Koirala.
Koirala also said that there are 11 parking bays at TIA for international flights, out of which only three are used for wide-body aircraft and the remaining are narrow-body aircraft.
November 09, 2019, marked another alarming incident at TIA when a Shree Airlines aircraft collided with a Yeti Airlines aircraft parked at TIA.
“The domestic section has 17 parking bays but we have to adjust 30 planes daily in those bays,” said Yograj Kandel, Spokesperson, Airlines Operators Association of Nepal.
“As domestic companies are adding more planes, and that too 72-seaters, the parking problem is not going to be resolved anytime soon,” he added.
Another problem faced by airline companies when flights are put on hold is fuel burn.
“Fuel burn rate is lower when the plane is still on the ground than when it is in the sky, but ultimately in both situations it affects the company financially. Such delays during take-off and landing also mean wasted time for passengers,” said Koirala.
Nepal Association of Tour and Travel Agents President CN Pandey says that an airport is the first impression of a country for a tourist. Hence, it is important that Nepal’s airport operations should be smooth.
“We have received numerous complaints from passengers of long-haul flights being put on hold and since tourism also depends on word-of-mouth publicity, it will affect the sector,” he added.