January 17, 2019 02:30 AM NPT
KATHMANDU, Jan 17: Buddha Air has announced to operate a commercial flight between Kathmandu and Kolkata from April.
The privately-owned carrier will be operating three flights a week on the sector from April 15, according to Birendra Bahadur Basnet, managing director of Buddha Air. "Most of the international flights to Nepal are focused on passengers traveling for job opportunities,” Basnet said, adding: "But our major focus will be on bringing tourists.”
Earlier, Buddha Air had announced plan to start flights to Kolkata from September 1, 2018.
Speaking at the press meet, Basnet said that Buddha Air was focused more on the tourist traffic. "Almost 70 percent of passengers in international flights operating to and from Nepal are migrant workers. We cannot compete in this segment," he said. "That is why our focus is on tourist traffic."
Buddha Air will operate ATR-72 aircraft for Kolkata flights. Flights will operate on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Buddha Air has been operating around 800 flights per week. The airline also operates scheduled flights on Kathmandu-Varanasi-Kathmandu route.
“We are taking Kolkata flight as a trial flight as we prepare to expand our wings in the international skies," Basnet added.
Buddha Air is also preparing to fly to several other South Asian countries from 2020. “If everything goes well with this Kolkata project, we will start flights to several South Asian countries," he added.
Citing the data of Bureau of Immigration, India, Basnet said that around 24 million Indian tourists traveled several countries in 2017. Of them 160,000 visited Nepal. "We can attract lot of Indian tourists. Many of them still do not know Nepal as a tourist destination," he added.
According to Basnet, Buddha Air will operate international from Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) until Pokhara International Airport comes into operation. "Once the international airport in Pokhara becomes ready to handle international flights, we will operate our tourist-based international flights from Pokhara,” he added.
Buddha Air operates a fleet of six ATR 72-500s, three ATR 42-300s and two 18-seater Beechcraft 1900Ds. It operates scheduled flights to Nepalgunj, Bhairahawa, Bharatpur, Simara, Janakpur, Biratnagar, Bhadrapur, Pokhara, Dhangadhi and Tumlingtar from Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA). It also operates flight to Varanasi, India.