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Airlines strain to handle festive rush

- Sangam Prasain, Kathmandu

Oct 13, 2015-

Domestic airlines have been facing an extremely high traffic load as a large number of people working or studying in the Kathmandu Valley have started returning home to celebrate Dashain with their families.

The Dashain travel rush, a long-held tradition, is considered to be the largest annual migration in Nepal.

Carriers said they had received an unprecedented number of flyers this festive season due to the Tarai unrest that has cut off highways and crippled overland transportation.

In addition, the fuel shortage has paralyzed the transport sector for the last three weeks, resulting in a short travel window and overcrowded public transport systems. Airlines have been witnessing a full passenger load for the last one and a half months.

“Private airlines had not seen such a travel rush before,” said Prajwol Thapa, senior marketing manager of Simrik Airlines. “In the past, we used to receive high traffic for a week starting from Ghatasthapana; but this year, airlines have been flying with full passenger loads for the last one and a half months.”

Airlines said that all the flights to the eastern region—Bhadrapur, Biratnagar and Janakpur—had been sold out. Flight frequencies on these sectors have been doubled to 30 flights daily.

“Despite the sharp rise in flight frequency, we have not been able to cope with the increasing traffic demand on these three sectors,” said Bhim Raj Rai, media manager of Yeti Airlines. “All the flights are sold out until October 22.” Rai said that they had been planning to add extra flights on these routes.

However, flights to the western sector like Nepalgunj, Bhairahawa and Dhangadhi have around 10 percent vacancies, airlines said.

According to Thapa, airlines have been conducting 15-16 flights daily in the western sector, up from nine to 10 flights during normal times.

According to Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), the Dashain and Tihar festival season accounts for 20 percent of the 1.45 million annual domestic traveller movement.

The sudden rise in traveller movement due to the Tarai unrest has brought happiness to domestic carriers after their business was severely affected for at least four months by the April 25 earthquake. However, they are worried by the worsening aviation fuel shortage after India imposed an unofficial trade blockade. Domestic air passenger movement has continued to shrink for three straight years, dropping 6 percent in 2014, as high fares, bad weather conditions and a slowed economy dented demand, according to the TIA.

Domestic carriers received 92,046 less flyers last year. They carried 1.45 million

passengers in 2014 against 1.54 million in 2013. This figure includes the 26,256 passengers flown by the country’s seven helicopter companies, TIA said.

Published: 13-10-2015 09:39

More on this story

Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) has said that it plans to add extra flights in the remote sector to cope with a steep rise in travel demand. NAC currently flies two Twin Otters in the remote sector, and plans to boost the frequency as per travel demand. NAC operates to remote sectors like Taplejung, Lamidanda, Phaplu and the Karnali region. It has been operating two-three weekly flights on these sectors. “As we have a limited number of aircraft, we will be adding flights on busy sectors,” said Ram Hari Sharma, spokesperson of NAC. The national flag carrier has been operating its Chinese-made MA60 aircraft on trunk routes like Nepalgunj, Dhangadhi, Bhairahawa and Biratnagar. Meanwhile, its Y12e aircraft has been grounded due to technical glitches.

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