Jet Airways closure affects air travel to and from Nepal

- BHRIKUTI RAI, Kathmandu

Apr 20, 2019-

Jet Airways’ decision to suspend all operations has left many passengers flying to and from Nepal through the airline in a bind. Travel agencies in Nepal are scrambling to find alternate flights for local Jet Airways passengers, after the embattled carrier’s decision on Wednesday. The announcement came days after the debt-ridden airline, one of India’s largest, ran out of cash and failed to inject additional funds from lenders.

The struggling airline had already cut down daily flights on its busiest Kathmandu-Delhi route by half in the last few weeks. Some travel agencies in Nepal said that they had already been advised not to book connecting domestic flights in India through Jet Airways. But the complete cancellation of all flights came as a shock to Nepali travel agencies, who are now facing difficulties getting their clients on flights to Indian cities.

“This was completely unexpected,” said Sabita Karki of President Travels. “No circular was ever sent to us, even hinting that this would happen. We found about the shutdown through media reports.”

Karki says fares for flights to Delhi from Kathmandu for the next few days have surged astronomically. One-way fare to Delhi, which used to hover between Rs 12,000 and 15,000, has now tripled to almost Rs 45,000. Currently, Nepal Airlines, Air India, and the Indian budget airline Indigo have daily flights to Delhi. Bhutanese airline operators Bhutan Airlines and Druk Airways, which began Kathmandu-Delhi flight every other day in February this year, have brought some relief to passengers stranded by Jet Airways. However, these airlines have closed bookings for regular class seats, forcing passengers to choose from a limited pool of expensive seats on the Kathmandu-Delhi route.

Travel agencies have also been helping passengers get flights from nearby Indian airports just across the border. People have been flying to Bhadrapur in eastern Nepal and then catching another flight to their destination from Bagdogra airport, across the border in West Bengal, said Samir Barakoti of the Kathmandu-based Flight Connection.

Only those who have flexible travel dates are rescheduling. Those who can’t afford to miss their flights have been compelled to fly business class. Some local travel agencies said they had already started redirecting new bookings through other airlines, sensing mounting troubles at Jet Airways. “Based on our conversations with the airline staff here, we sort of got the message to look for alternative flights about two weeks ago,” said Barakoti.

Ishu Dhakras, a Kathmandu native, who splits her time between Nepal and India, said her brother-in-law had to pay an exorbitant fare to travel to Kathmandu after the shutdown. He had initially booked a Jet Airways flight, which got cancelled. Now she is worried about her family trip to Kathmandu next month from Mumbai, she says. Jet Airways and Nepal Airlines are the only carriers with daily flights to Mumbai.

“We might fly to Delhi first and then take a bus from there to Kathmandu,” said Dhakras. “Nepal Airlines isn’t always reliable with its unannounced cancellations and delays.”

An official at the Jet Airways office in Kathmandu said they found out about the temporary shutdown of operations around the same time as everyone else. The official said that they had received an email from the head office in India to not speak with the media, and direct all queries to their office in Mumbai. The head office, however, did not respond to the Post’s request for comment.

“Since no emergency funding from the lenders or any other source is forthcoming, the airline will not be able to pay for fuel or other critical services to keep the operations going. Consequently, with immediate effect, Jet Airways is compelled to cancel all its international and domestic flights,” the airline said in a statement on Wednesday.

But another Nepali employee at the Jet Airways Kathmandu office said that the recent shutdown hadn’t affected their work much.

“There are no talks about layoff, and we are at work as usual,” said the employee, requesting anonymity since he wasn’t authorised to

speak to the media. “This is just temporary.”

Published: 20-04-2019 10:16

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