KATHMANDU, Oct 16: The recent hike in airfares for flights between Kathmandu and Dhangadhi has left passengers who plan to return home for the festival season facing difficulties.
The increased fare of Rs 17,000 per passenger is now among the highest in domestic flights within the country. Passengers have raised concerns, noting that airfares for Kathmandu to New Delhi flights are actually lower than the newly inflated domestic airfare, which has soared from around Rs 7,000 to over Rs 17,000 by a private airline company.
Santosh Joshi, a passenger, voiced his frustration, pointing out that no government agency has intervened, even though the airlines unilaterally increased fares during the festive period. He emphasized the disparity in airfares, saying, "The airfare from Kathmandu to New Delhi is less than Rs 17,000. Setting such a high fare for domestic travel is causing distress to passengers with urgent travel needs."
With the festival season already in, passengers are struggling to secure bus tickets to reach their destinations due to the surge in airfares, which has limited their ability to choose air travel.
Ganesh Bahadur Singh, head of the Dhangadhi Airport, clarified that the airline company is currently charging the maximum fare in accordance with the pricing rate approved by the Ministry of Culture, Tourism, and Civil Aviation. He explained, "It appears that the airlines are adhering to the fares sanctioned by the ministry. When passenger numbers increase during the festival for flights from Kathmandu to Dhangadhi, they apply the maximum fare. Conversely, when passenger numbers decrease for flights from Dhangadhi to Kathmandu, they implement the minimum fare."
Presently, airfares for the Kathmandu-Dhangadhi route range from Rs 14,701 to Rs 17,186. Meanwhile, the lowest fare for Dhangadhi to Kathmandu flights is NPR 7,900. Starting from the month of Shrawan, passengers are also subject to value-added tax (VAT) on their air tickets, a new addition. Until recently, VAT was not applied to these tickets. Additionally, over the past few months, an airport service fee per passenger has been fixed at Rs 400 in Kathmandu and Rs 500 in Dhangadhi.
Two private sector airlines - Buddha Air and Shree Airlines - are currently offering daily air services on the Kathmandu-Dhangadhi route, with two and four flights, respectively. Summit Air, another private sector airline, has introduced air services on routes including Dhangadhi-Bajhang-Dhangadhi, Dhangadhi-Samphe-Dhangadhi, and Dhangadhi-Bajura-Nepalgunj on Wednesdays and Mondays, departing from the Nepalgunj base.