KATHMANDU, May 16: Commercial flights from the Gautam Buddha International Airport (GBIA) began starting Monday. Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba formally inaugurated Nepal’s second international airport, the GBIA today. The opening was marked by a successful landing of an international commercial flight.
Kuwait's Jazeera Airways made the first commercial international flight to the GBIA. A Jazeera Airways aircraft landed in Bhairahawa at 7:08 AM on Monday.The landing plane was greeted with a water cannon salute and applause. At 6:56 AM on Monday, a narrow-body aircraft of the Nepal Airlines Corporation also made a commercial domestic flight.
The project came into operation four years after the scheduled time. The initial cost of the project was Rs 6.22 billion but now the cost of the project has reached almost Rs 8 billion. Director General of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) Pradeep Adhikari said that the airport was constructed at a cost of around Rs 7.5 billion.
Speaking at an inauguration program on Monday, PM Deuba said the opening of the airport is a historic day in Nepal’s aviation and tourism sectors and will contribute to the country’s overall development and prosperity in the long run.
Similarly, ADB Country Director for Nepal, Arnaud Cauchois said, “The airport will help connect Lumbini—a major tourist and pilgrimage destination—to Buddhist circuits in South Asia as well as to the rest of the world. In a broader context, the airport will form a cornerstone of the country’s overall development by facilitating tourism, expanding trade and economic activities, generating local employment opportunities, and improving international air transport access to migrant workers and people living in the nearby provinces.”
The airport is located 19 kilometers from the UNESCO World Heritage site of Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha.
The new airport facility, which can accommodate wide-body airplanes, features a 15,169-square-meter terminal building and a new runway of 3,000 meters. Moreover, an advanced Instrument Landing System will be used in GBIA, a first for Nepal, to allow aircraft landing even in low visibility.
“The opening of the airport is a moment of pride for the country. As Nepal’s second international airport, the GBIA, will serve as an alternative to the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, and airlines will no longer have to divert to other countries in the event of bad weather or other technical issues,” said Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Prem Bahadur Ale.
The total cost of the airport construction is US dollar 76.1 million. Of this, ADB’s contribution is about USD 37 million in loans and grants, while the OPEC Fund for International Development contributed about USD 11 million in loan. The rest was funded by the Government of Nepal.