Domestic airlines have reduced number of flights by up to 50 percent, citing drop in number of passengers following the earthquake of April 25.
Officials of domestic airlines said they had to reduce number of flights as the number of passengers coming to Kathmandu from various cities have reduced drastically though the number of passengers travelling from Kathmandu has increased. “The pressure of passengers leaving Kathmandu for other destinations is high. But while returning back, we have to return almost empty,” Prajwol Thapa, marketing manager of Simrik Airlines, said. “That is why we are forced to reduced flight frequency.”
Airlines have reduced flight frequency to Pokhara, a major tourist destination, by almost 50 percent as tourist arrivals to the country has fallen drastically after the earthquake. Major airlines like Buddha Air, Simrik Air and Yeti Airlines have halved their flights to Pokhara.
According to Thapa, Simrik Airlines used to operate up to six flights a day to Pokhara. It has reduced the number of flights to two to three. Similarly, it has also reduced the number of flights to Lukla by half.
“We are operating only two flights a day to Lukla as there are no tourist,” Thapa said, adding that Simrik used to operate up to five flights a day to Lukla before the earthquake. He said that the number of passengers going to Lukla has decreased by around 70 percent.
Though Simrik Airlines has not changed its daily schedule flights to Bhairahawa, it, however, operated, only one flight in 10 days as there are no passengers. Similarly, it did not operate any flight on Pokhara-Jomsom route in the first 10 days after the earthquake of April 25. “But booking for Jomsom-Pokhara flight is slowly picking up. Indians and third country tourists have to book tickets,” added Thapa.
Buddha Air has been operating all the scheduled flights except on Pokhara sector. The airline, which used to operate six flights a day on Kathmandu-Pokhara route, has reduced the flights to two. “We have been getting sufficient passengers on return flights only from Pokhara. From other sectors, our return flights are almost empty,” Rupesh Joshi, senior executive manager of Buddha Air, told Republica.
Buddha Air has been operating five flights a day to Biratnagar, one each to Dhangadi , Janakpur and Tumlingtar, and two each to Nepalgunj, Bharatpur, Bhadrapur and Bhairahawa.
Yeti Airlines has also reduced its flights to Pokhara two three from five. It used to operate up to 10 flights a day to the lake city during peak tourist season.
“We have been operating regular flights to other destinations even though we are not getting sufficient passengers while returning,” Saral Rana, deputy marketing director of Yeti Airlines, said.
AIRLINES NOT PROVIDING CHEAP FARE
Domestic airlines operators have stopped providing cheap fare after the earthquake of April 25, citing significant drop in number of passengers.
The airlines have been selling tickets at normal fare only after the earthquake.
“We have not increased the fare even though we are not getting passengers in return flights. To make up for the loss, we have stopped providing cheap fare,” Rana of Yeti Airlines said. He said the airline would start selling tickets at cheap fare once the situation becomes normal.
Buddha Air and Simrik Airlines, however, are providing cheap fare on return flights.
NO MOUNTAIN FLIGHT
Mountain flights, which used to attract foreign tourists in droves, have not been operated after the earthquake of April 25.
Domestic airlines used to operate at least six mountain flights a day. Now they have stopped operating mountain flights due to drop in number of foreign tourists.
Simrik operated four mountain flights after the earthquake of April 25, while Buddha and Yeti have operated two and one flight, respectively.
“The booking for mountain flight is almost nil,” Thapa said, adding that he was hopeful of the situation becoming normal soon.