Dispute over 'takeoff and landing spot': CAAN warns suspension of paragliding flights if the dispute is not resolved within three days

Published On: February 6, 2024 11:00 AM NPT By: Santosh Pokharel

POKHARA, Feb 6: Less than a month after the dispute over whether or not to implement the one-door system imposed on paragliding flights, another dispute has surfaced between tourism entrepreneurs. The controversy is about the 'takeoff and landing' point of paragliding.

The latest dispute between tourism entrepreneurs has even reached the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), the regulatory body of Nepal's aviation sector. The CAAN has warned that it will stop paragliding flights in Pokhara if the latest dispute is not resolved within three days.

According to tourism entrepreneurs, the 57 paragliding companies currently operating in Pokhara are divided into two groups. One side has 44 companies and the other side has 13 companies.

Recently, they agreed that the one-door system should be removed and the tourism entrepreneurs should be able to set the prices for flights according to the open market policy.

As the tourism entrepreneurs can set the price themselves, the fee of paragliding flight in Pokhara has dropped from Rs 12,000 to Rs 3,000. Tourism entrepreneurs say that the number of tourists coming for paragliding has increased after the fee was reduced.

Although the flights have started in accordance with the open market policy, disputes have started again among tourism entrepreneurs about the 'takeoff and landing' point. As the dispute escalated, 44 companies refused to give the old 'takeoff and landing' point to other 13 companies.

After they were denied the 'takeoff and landing' point, 13 companies approached the CAAN to request for a new takeoff and landing point.

Samita Shakya, manager of the CAAN's flight safety standard department, said that a paragliding company had approached them demanding a new 'takeoff and landing' point. 

"We cannot provide the 'takeoff and landing' point according to people’s wishes. There is also a matter of safety. Therefore, the responsibility of managing it belongs to the umbrella organization of paragliding professionals, Nepal Airsports Association (NAA),” Shakya said adding, "CAAN has given the responsibility of managing paragliding to the umbrella organization NAA. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the NAA to manage the place.”

Shakya said that some companies have complained about not getting a place to land and take off. “If NAA cannot treat all companies equally, we will stop paragliding flights. One cannot always make demands. They should manage it themselves,” she said, "We have given them three days. If it is not resolved, we will be forced to close paragliding in Pokhara.”

According to the entrepreneurs, the NAA had been making paragliding flights and landings for all companies turn-by-turn under the one-door system. However, now that they have started to manage flights themselves, the number of flights has also increased due to the increase in competition among tourism entrepreneurs. A few tourism entrepreneurs say that there is a lack of 'takeoff and landing' space, stating that as the number of flights has increased and the security challenge has also increased.

According to the entrepreneurs, they can operate paragliding only from Mandredhunga and land in the Pame area. NAA was operating flights and landings by leasing land with the locals.

“There was no problem of take-off and landing when it was managed by the NAA. There was no shortage of space when the company flew turn-by-turn. However, now the pressure to fly at will has increased. As a result, the take-off and landing points are inadequate,'' said an entrepreneur who is a supporter of 44 companies. “However, due to increasing congestion, 13 other companies did not get a place to take off and land.” The agreement with the landlord of the 'takeoff and landing' point rented by that NAA expired on January 15

"After the agreement with the landlord was over, 13 companies did not get a 'takeoff and landing' place there," he said, "Then they went to the CAAN saying they wanted a 'takeoff and landing' place. 

An entrepreneur from another business group said that they have demanded a new 'takeoff and landing' point as it had become congested when all the companies wanted to take off and land at the same place. “There was no problem when flying to the Sarangkot area. At that time there were five places each for takeoff and landing. Now it has become congested in Mandredhunga and Pame," he said.

Sunil Bhattarai, president of NAA, said that it was easy to manage when all the entrepreneurs were together, but now it is difficult. 

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