KATHMANDU, March 15: The domestic airlines have decided to cut the airfare by 50% in line with the slowed down passenger flow due to the impact of the coronavirus.
The occupancy rate for the domestic flights has dropped to 60% with only 50% flight frequency, according to Yog Raj Kandel, spokesperson of the Airlines Operators Association of Nepal (AOAN). “They are charging only minimum fare in the hope of increasing the occupancy rate and meet the breakeven point,” he added.
Airlines operators say that the flights have become one way centric. “Very few people are travelling to destinations outside Kathmandu against the returning number to Kathmandu,” Kandel told Republica, adding that the foreigners are returning back to their countries. Though there are passengers in trunk routes, short takeoff and landing (STOL) and helicopter bookings have depleted over the month. “The STOL and helicopter sectors are on the verge of collapsing and now with suspension of spring expeditions, the helicopters will be flying less,” he said.
Similarly, Raj Kumar Chhetri, spokesperson at CAAN said that, the passenger flow in the airport has plummeted. “The flow of passengers has plummeted and international airlines operators have slashed 20% of flight frequency connecting to Nepal,” Chhetri said, “As a result, the earning of TIA is expected to go down by 35% this year.” The country's sole international airport used to have Rs 6 billion plus revenue annually. The AOAN has projected that the revenue will go down to Rs 4 billion this year.
According to the association, 50% of helicopters have already been grounded because the flight frequency of helicopter flights has gone down by 90%. “The STOL flights to the predetermined destinations have been operating basically for cargo services at the moment as there are no passengers,” Kandel informed. The STOL flight frequency has gone down by 80%.
The association stated that, out of the 18 mountain flights daily, only 11 are operating at the moment. The daily flights to Pokhara have declined from 26 to 17 whereas daily flights to Lukla have been reduced to 12 from 19.
The airlines operators have demanded the revision of aviation fuel price to correspond with the airfare adjustment. “If the government lowers its profit margin to Rs 5 or not exceed Rs 10, we will be able to sustain the loss incurred by the impact of the coronavirus,” he said. The helicopter companies have come to an agreement to send foreign pilots back to their home countries due to the decline in bookings at the moment. “We have decided to use the available domestic pilots as an attempt to reduce the operating cost,” Kandel further added. There are more than 6,500 employees currently working in helicopter and airlines companies in Nepal.