KATHMANDU, Feb 19: Nearly a dozen domestic flights were cancelled and several others including some international flights were affected due to the annual Army Day/Shivaratri rehearsal conducted by Nepal Army in Kathmandu on Tuesday.
Several domestic and international flights to and from the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) were either cancelled or delayed due to the rehearsal for the upcoming festival Shivaratri, which falls this Friday. On Tuesday morning, the TIA had issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) about the rehearsal that takes place every year in the run-up to the Shivaratri festival. “The rehearsal takes place two days prior to the festival every year about which we had issued NOTAM to airline companies,” said Debendra KC, general manager at TIA. As per the NOTAM, the flights to and from the TIA were halted from 1:45 pm to 3:45 pm Tuesday.
KC said that the rehearsal affected the flights for two hours only but bad weather in the morning added to the problem. According to KC, flights could not be conducted from 7 am to 10 am due to bad weather. “No flights could land or take off for three hours due to low visibility,” he added. TIA officials attributed bad weather as the factor impacting the flights apart from the rehearsal.
Meanwhile, domestic airline operators said that the TIA Office had issued NOTAM only on Tuesday morning giving them much less time to prepare for the day’s flights. “Had they informed us a day earlier, it would have been easier for us to adjust the flight schedules,” said Anil Manandhar, corporate manager of Shree Airlines, “We had to cancel at least four flights due to bad weather and the rehearsal.”
Manandhar further added that the rehearsal alone delayed the flights by two hours. “With several cancellations and delays, there is so much pressure to readjust the flights,” he said.
Flights of domestic airlines like Buddha Air, Yeti Airlines, Shree Airlines to destinations including Pokhara, Janakpur and Rajbiraj were affected. Similarly, international flights of Nepal Airlines Corporation, Thai Airways and Air India, among others were affected on Tuesday. “As soon as the airport reopened, there was air traffic congestion and several flights had to be kept on hold,” KC clarified.