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Bad roads prove bonanza for airlines, traffic up 46pc

- SANGAM PRASAIN, Kathmandu

Oct 16, 2017-

The country’s highways which seem to be in perpetual disrepair have proved to be a bonanza for domestic airlines which saw a sharp growth in passenger traffic in the first seven months of 2017 as more travellers are choosing to fly rather than make a bone-jarring overland trip.

Figures issued by Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) showed that domestic airline passenger traffic jumped 45.87 percent to 1.28 million during the January-July period.

According to the statistics, domestic carriers received 403,487 additional fliers in the first seven months of 2017 compared to the same period last year. The figure includes helicopter passengers.

Meanwhile, domestic flight movements swelled 37.68 percent in the first seven months of this year. The 18 domestic airlines which include nine fixed-wing companies made 49,894 flights. The Nepali skies recorded an average of 238 domestic flights daily.  

“One of the key reasons for the growth in the number of air travellers is poor road conditions across the country,” said Prem Nath Thakur, spokesperson for TIA. Moreover, smaller aircraft are gradually being replaced by larger aircraft with 50-70 seating capacity. 

“This means that the operational costs of airlines have dropped, and it has benefitted flyers in terms of cost,” he said, adding that airfare has become relatively cheaper, which is the single biggest factor to attract flyers.  

The year 2017 has been a productive year for airlines with a dozen aircraft being inducted into the domestic fleet. Buddha Air added an ATR 72-500 aircraft to its fleet in March. Saurya Airlines acquired another jet in the same month, three years after starting commercial operations with a Bombardier CRJ-200 series jet. 

In February, Nepal Airlines and Summit Air (previously Goma Air) added two new aircraft each to their fleets. Domestic passenger numbers are expected to rise further with Shree Airlines taking to the air and Yeti Airlines adding two ATR 72s.

Nepal’s largest helicopter operator Shree Airlines started fixed-wing operations with three Bombardier Canadair Regional Jets (CRJs) in August. Yeti Airlines added two ATR 72 aircraft in July and September respectively. 

After witnessing a constant fall in passenger numbers in the last four years, the domestic aviation sector rebounded strongly in 2016, recording an all-time high air traveller movement. Buddha Air carried the highest number of passengers. According to the statistics, the carrier flew 735,276 travellers in the first seven months of 2017. 

Yeti Airlines flew 283,259 passengers. Yeti’s subsidiary Tara Air, which only operates on remote sectors, flew 34,988 passengers. Saurya Airlines which began flying in November 2014 carried 90,089 passengers. 

Likewise, Nepal Airlines flew 50,223 passengers in the first seven months of 2017. The national flag carrier saw the strongest passenger growth since it started operating the 56-seater Chinese-made MA60 aircraft in 2014.

Published: 16-10-2017 09:20

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