Buddha Air has set a target of bringing 70,000 Indian tourists annually
KATHMANDU, May 29: The announcement of Buddha Air to operate scheduled flights between Nepalgunj and New Delhi is expected to benefit the country's tourism industry.
The flight will benefit Indian Kailash-Mansarovar pilgrims, as they can now directly fly to Nepalgunj from the Indian capital. At present, Kailash-Mansarovar pilgrims have to first fly to Kathmandu and take a flight to Nepalgunj before they fly to Simikot airstrip of Humla.
Nepalgunj is evolving as a hub for Kailash-Mansarovar pilgrims in recent years.
Buddha Air has already submitted application at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, seeking permission to operate the flight. The airline company took the decision three days after Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Rabindra Adhikari announced to operate international flight from provincial level.
“We are starting Nepalgunj-New Delhi flight in order to bring about economic revolution in the mid-western region,” Birendra Bahadur Basnet, managing director of Buddha Air, told Republica. He added that highly ranked officials of the ministry has assured the airline to give flight permission at the earliest.
According to Basnet, the airline has sought permission to operate three flights a week.
“Although, the target is to bring tourists traveling to Kailash-Mansarovar region of Tibet via Humla, the major motive behind this flight is to contribute to economic prosperity of the country,” Basnet told Republica.
“Our vision is to serve 70,000 passengers annually to support economy of the mid-western region,” he added.
He added that the airline plans to operate daily flights to the Indian capital city from Nepalgunj.
Earlier, the airline has already announced to operate direct flights between Kathmandu and Kolkata (India) from September.
Existing infrastructure at Nepalgunj airport, however, do not suitable for international flight operation. The airport requires terminal building, immigration and custom office for international flights.
“We will begin our flights once the government builds terminal building, and arranges immigration and customs facilities,” Basnet added. “If the government assures us to arrange these facilities within five or six months we will promote the route aggressively in the international market.”
Statistics shows around 35 million Indian nationals holiday abroad annually.
“Not only religious tourists, we will focus on high-spending tourists. We are hopeful of receiving support from all the stakeholders, including government agencies, to achieve our goal,” he added.
Buddha Air intends to use its 72-seat ATR 72-500 aircraft for the flight. Buddha Air operates a fleet of five ATR 72-500 aircraft, three 47-seat ATR 42-320 aircraft and two 18-seat Beechcraft 1900D aircraft. The airline is currently operating flights to Nepalgunj, Bhairahawa, Bharatpur, Simara, Janakpur, Biratnagar, Bhadrapur, Pokhara, Dhangadi and Tumlingtar from Kathmandu. Similarly, it has been operating Everest experience and Annapurna Mountain flights from Kathmandu and Pokhara, respectively.
Likewise, it is operating flights from Biratnagar to Tumlingtar, Pokhara to Bharatpur and Pokhara to Bhairahawa.
No more chartered flights from remote airfields
KATHMANDU (REPUBLICA): Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Rabindra Adhikari has said that increment in price of flights to remote areas is justifiable than operating chartered flights there.
Speaking at an event organized to make public activities carried out by the ministry during his first 100 days in office, Adhikari said scheduled flight is always better than chartered flights.
He was referring to the ministry's decision to end charter flight services in Karnali Province and Province 7.
Ending a cartel of airlines companies that were operating chartered flights in the remote airfields of the two provinces in the western part of the country, Adhikari said that he was hopeful that the decision will provide some relief to local people. “The decision had to be taken to discourage airlines from providing services on profitable routes only,” Adhikari said at the program. “Airlines may not earn profit from the newly-opened Rajbiraj Airport in the beginning. But we are concerned more about better service to people than profit margin of airline companies. They must operate scheduled flights.”
Talking to Republica, Ghanashyam Acharya, the spokesperson for Airlines Operators Association of Nepal (AOAN), welcomed the decision, stating that the decision to end chartered flight services in remote areas was a step forward toward ending syndicate of airline companies.
“The decision will increase flight rates. But it will still be lower than the flight rates of chartered flight,” he said, adding that the decision will benefit general public as well as regulate airline companies.
He further said that AOAN strongly believes that this policy will benefit all the airlines companies interested to operate flights in remote areas.
Airline companies like, Tara Air, have been operating chartered flights to several remote airfields of the country.