- SANGAM PRASAIN, Kathmandu
Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) recorded robust international passenger traffic growth in the first nine months of the year despite infrastructure bottlenecks. According to TIA, 3.1 million travellers passed through the airport during the period January-September, up 12.51 percent year-on-year.
Passenger traffic at Nepal’s sole international aerial gateway has been growing since 2003. There was an 8 percent drop in passenger traffic in 2015 when the country was struck by a severe earthquake. TIA has been facing severe infrastructure hurdles as facilities have not kept pace with the growth in passenger traffic.
Aircraft movement also grew 2.79 percent to 24,926 flights in the first nine months of this year. Currently, 27 foreign airlines and three Nepali carriers connect Kathmandu with international destinations. The Nepali skies recorded an average 92 international flight movements daily.
Due to congestion, new airlines are not getting slots during peak hours. According to Raj Kumar Chettri, general manager of TIA, the airport was compelled to take an unpopular decision to stop providing slots for new airlines during peak hours. “Besides, we have increased the airport opening hours to 21 hours a day from the usual 18 hours to reduce congestion,” he said, adding that a number of domestic airlines had been using Ramechhap airport instead of TIA to fly trekkers to Lukla.
Hordes of foreigners travel to Lukla during the September-November period, the peak trekking season in Nepal, causing chaos at the airport. Chettri claimed that there was some visible improvement in the airport management that had significantly reduced the holding pattern for international flights.
He said holding patterns had been slashed to 20-30 minutes from the usual 1 hour last year.
“We are also constructing four new parking bays, and once they come into operation, traffic congestion both on the ground and in the air will be reduced significantly.”
A breakdown by airline shows that India’s Jet Airways topped the list of carriers with the highest number of passengers. Jet, which operates three flights to Delhi and two flights to Mumbai daily, flew 336,665 passengers in the first nine months of this year, recording a drop of 2.99 percent.
Nepal Airlines came second with a passenger carriage growth of 12.06 percent. It flew 315,861 passengers during the review period. The growth rate of Nepal Airlines has increased after it inducted two Airbus A330 jets into its international fleet. The statistics show that Nepal Airlines commands a 10.15 percent share of the international passenger market.
Doha-based Qatar Airways saw the strongest passenger growth reaching the third spot in terms of passenger carriage. The airline flew 291,459 passengers, up 35.03 percent in the review period.
Low-cost carrier Fly Dubai stood fourth, flying 249,631 passengers, up 14.06 percent. Indian national flag carrier Indian Airlines posted a strong passenger growth of 55.76 percent in the first nine months of this year. It flew 174,637 passengers.
Nepali carrier Himalaya Airlines carried 167,176 passengers in the first nine months of this year, recording a healthy growth of 88.29 percent as compared to the same period last year.
Passenger carriage by Air Arabia and Thai Airways dropped 26.40 percent to 160,086 passengers and 1.83 percent to 124,221 passengers, respectively. Similarly, Oman Air saw its passenger growth drop by 6.67 percent to 122,208 individuals.
Malaysia-based low cost carrier Malindo Air recorded a passenger carriage growth of 13.69 percent. It flew 124,416 passengers in the first nine months of 2018.
Published: 20-11-2018 08:46