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China Eastern halts Kathmandu flights

- Sangam Prasain, Kathmandu
The airline informed Nepal-based travel agencies that if the jet fuel situation did not improve, it would be forced to extend the flights suspension further.

Oct 10, 2015-Aviation fuel crisis at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) caused by the unofficial trade blockade imposed by India has hit yet another Chinese airline.

On Friday, China Eastern Airlines announced temporary suspension of its Kunming-Kathmandu flights, starting from October 15-26.

The airline informed travel agencies here that if the jet fuel situation did not improve, it would be forced to extend the flights suspension further.

On Sept 29, China Southern Airlines had temporarily cancelled its Guangzhou-Kathmandu flights until October 10. The airline has extended its cancellation until October 25.

Citing the jet fuel crisis, the airport authority on Sept 29 barred foreign carriers from refuelling at the TIA. The tough decision was taken in response to requests from the Nepal Oil Corporation.

“This is to kindly inform you all that due to the present situation of Nepal and fuel crisis, we are going to cancel more flights of Guangzhou-Kathmandu-Guangzhou effective from Sept 29 to Oct 25,”the China Southern said on its Facebook page. “If the situation gets better before this date we will recover our flights soon.”

The flights cancellation comes on the eve of the festive season—Dashain and Tihar—when thousands of migrant workers and other Nepalis living abroad return home to celebrate with their families.

Frustrated, travellers have criticised the airlines for the flights cancellation at the last hour, said the travel agencies. “As inbound flights to Nepal are almost full, the travellers have been affected largely.”

“I have a flight on Oct 26 from Guangzhou to Kathmandu. I just want to make sure the flight will be on schedule or not. If not how we gonna manage out trip to Kathmandu?” US-based Upahaar Gurung posted on China Southern’s Facebook page.

Another traveller Subodh Dhakal said: “Can you please let us know the latest situation on Guangzhou-Kathmandu flights update on CZ 3067 flight on Oct 22? We are in dilemma.”

Dhiraj Chandra Shrestha, deputy sales manager of China Southern, said they were arranging alternatives for the passengers.

“For travellers who wish to cancel their reservations, we are providing full refund, and for those who do not want to cancel, we have arranged seats in other airlines,” he said, adding the flights cancellation has affected around 2,000 passengers.

China Eastern that used to operate double daily flights on the Kunming-Kathmandu sector had cut its flights to two weekly after the April 25 earthquake and increased the frequency to thrice weekly recently. It had planned to resume normal operations from October 25.

“However, due to the refuelling problem at TIA, the airline that operates 145-seater Boeing 737 on the Nepal route has temporarily cancelled its flights,” said Deepak Basnet, senior ticketing executive at Osho World Travel Nepal. “Most of the foreign carriers are in wait-and-see mode,” he said, adding if the jet fuel crisis prolongs, there will be more flights cancellation.  

Basnet said both the airlines have temporarily suspended their flights to Nepal due to operation difficulties as their aircraft cannot carry a full load of passengers, cargo and full load of fuel. “Advance inbound bookings in these two carriers were more than 80 percent.”

Among the four Chinese carriers, Air China that operates flights to Chengdu via Lhasa flies a wide-body aircraft and Sichuan Airlines has been refuelling at Lhasa.

The Chinese carriers had recorded a healthy passenger growth last year. Air China, China Southern and China eastern received a combined 241,851 travellers in 2014, up 28.93 percent. Sichuan had started its daily flights along the Chengdu-Kathmandu-Chengdu route via Lhasa in April.

Published: 10-10-2015 08:27

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