Domestic terminal to open an hour earlier from Sept 1

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Aug 2, 2018-

The domestic terminal at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) will open an hour earlier from September 1 to facilitate smooth movement of domestic flights during the peak tourist season, airport officials said.

According to TIA General Manager Raj Kumar Chettri, the domestic terminal will open at 5 am while the air traffic control tower will open at 5:40 am. Currently, the domestic terminal opens at 6 am and flights start taking off from 6:30 am. “We have aimed to process the first flights from 6 am. Starting an hour early will ease traffic congestion to some extent.”

The September-November period is the peak tourist season accounting for 35 percent of the total tourist arrivals to Nepal. The autumn tourist season coincides with the festival rush when hordes of Nepalis take to the air to return to their home towns to be with their families.

According to TIA, as many as 400 domestic flights and 100 international flights are operated daily during this period. Of the total flights, 75 percent are domestic.

The main reason behind the congestion at TIA during the tourist season is Lukla flights. And if a flight to Lukla, the gateway to Everest, is disrupted on any particular day due to weather, its rescheduling will create a cascade effect on all flights. The objective of opening the airport an hour earlier is to process as many flights to Lukla as possible, officials said.

However, TIA authorities have no plans to operate the country’s sole international airport round-the-clock unless the runway is rehabilitated. Since May 21, TIA has been operating 21 hours daily after extending its opening hours by 2 hours 30 minutes due to a sharp growth in air passenger traffic. Severe congestion has been plaguing the country’s sole international gateway.

“We aim to keep TIA open 24/7, but only after rehabilitating the runway,” said Chettri, adding that the runway rehabilitation project would begin only after Gautam Buddha International Airport in Bhairahawa was constructed. The airport, which is the gateway to Lumbini, the Buddha’s birthplace, is expected to be completed by July 2019.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan) has put the $28-million TIA runway rehabilitation project on hold until the second international airport in Bhairahawa is constructed. Caan has learnt from the intermittent progress of the Gautam Buddha and TIA upgradation projects that work can stall at any time, according to Caan officials.

“For example, if the TIA runway rehabilitation project is started without a Plan B or an alternative runway, there will be total chaos in the event construction works are disrupted,” they said.

Caan will be continuing the TIA improvement project soon, and it includes major works like runway extension and taxiway construction. According to TIA, the airport will have to be shut down from 12 midnight to 6 am daily to carry out the runway rehabilitation works.

The project was launched in December 2012 with the completion deadline set for March 2016. However, Caan was forced to discharge the Spanish company, the contractor for the project, in 2016 due to delays.

TIA’s 3,050-metre-long aged runway has suffered frequent damage, forcing authorities to declare the airport out of bounds for heavy jets.

Repeated occurrences of cracks on the runway at the country’s sole international aerial gateway have been affecting smooth operation of aircraft since 2011. Scores of flights have been diverted or delayed in recent years due to problems in the runway. Trouble mainly occurs during the rainy season. This monsoon, the runway has developed cracks more than 10 times.

When compared to the core part of the runway between 2006 and 2013, damage to the intermediate layers was caused by the operation of large jets like the Airbus A330 and Boeing 777, according to Caan.

In 2013, there were 1,000 operations of A330-300 aircraft, 955 of Boeing 777 and 452 of A330-200, and the numbers are expected to double in the next 20 years.

Cracks first appeared on the runway in June 2011, and they have become a recurrent problem. Cracks were reported occasionally in 2012. However, the problem worsened in 2013, forcing Caan to take a harsh decision to bar aircraft weighing more than 196 tonnes from landing at TIA for a month.

Published: 02-08-2018 08:37

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