Air travel demand up due to highway maintenance

Air travel demand up due to highway maintenance

Travellers from Bharatpur to Kathmandu have taken to the air to escape delays while going overland with the Narayanghat-Mugling highway undergoing major repairs.

The journey normally takes 4-5 hours by motor vehicle, but with bulldozers tearing up the pavement and blocking traffic, travellers now have to be ready to spend another 3-4 hours on the road.

Airlines have been adding extra flights on the sector to cater to the growing demand. Buddha Air has begun charter flights besides increasing the frequency of its daily flights from two to five. Airline officials said that traveller numbers had more than doubled after the road upgradation work started.

Bhakta Bahadur Basnet, station manager of Buddha Air, said they had added extra flights due to growing travel demand. A one-way ticket on the 20-minute flight costs Rs3,225 per person.

Basnet said the occupancy rate on their Kathmandu-Bharatpur route was 75 percent while occupancy on the return flight was 98 percent. Buddha Air flies ATR-42 and 18-seater Beechcraft on the sector. Tara Air said it had been forced to slash its flight frequency to one daily despite the rush due to its equipment. The carrier, a subsidiary of Yeti Airlines, has been flying Dornier aircraft as the runway at Bharatpur airport is unsuitable for its Jetstream aircraft.

“The travel demand on the sector has increased dramatically. However, we have not been able to use our Jetstream aircraft due to the small runway,” said Rajesh Singh, station manager of Yeti Airlines.

He said that their flights used to carry a large number of foreign tourists in the past, but due to the difficulty of travelling by road, a majority of travellers now are Nepalis.

Keshav Lamsal, deputy manager of the airport, said that landslides and road blockades had led to a sharp rise in the number of air passengers. The number of fliers has doubled to 300 daily from 150 in the past.

Source: The Kathmandu Post