No takers yet for midnight slots at TIA

Published On: June 25, 2018 05:58 AM NPT By: Arpana Ale Magar

Qatar Airways will apply for midnight slot once head office gives the go ahead: Country Manager 

KATHMANDU, June 25: It has been a month since Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) started operating 21 hours in a day i.e. till 3 am in the morning. The move was aimed at easing air traffic congestion at TIA by encouraging airlines to shift their day flights to night time or early morning. However, not a single airline has sought permission to operate night-time flights so far.

Before May 21, the airport was operating from 6:30 to midnight. The airport is now open from 6:30 am till 3 am next day. This means the airport is closed between 3 am to 6:30 am only. The last flight that lands at TIA is at 12 midnight.

Raj Kumar Chhetri, general manager of TIA, said that two Gulf-based carriers -- Qatar Airways of Qatar and Wataniya Airways of Kuwait, have shown interest to shift their day flight to wee hours. “But the airline companies have not made formal request yet,” Chhetri added.

Extending operation hours of TIA was one of the plans that Ministers for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Rabindra Adhikari included in his 100-day action plan. Though TIA operation hour has been extended as envisaged by Minister Adhikari, it is not known yet when airlines will start using the new slots between 12:30 am and 3 am.

Talking to Republica, Jayaprakash Nair, country manager of Qatar Airways for Nepal, said that the Nepal office has already tabled their plan to shift one daytime flight to the extended hours of TIA at the head office of Qatar Airways. “We have recommended to our headquarters to operate night flights t TIA,” Nair said, adding: “We will make formal request to the TIA management once we get go ahead from our head office.”

“Hopefully, we will be operating flights from Kathmandu at wee hours within a month.”

According to Nair, flights between midnight and 3 am will benefit passengers traveling to US and other European countries. 

Prem Nath Thakur, spokesperson for TIA, told Republica that airlines cannot change their flight schedule overnight. “Airlines need to make lot of preparation to shift their flights. We have not received any formal proposals may be because airline companies are making internal preparation,” he said, adding that it could take some more time for airline companies to apply for slots in the extended hours.

TIA, however, is fully prepared to handle flights in the extended hours. Currently, the TIA management has deployed staffers in four shifts from 6 am in the morning till 3 am next day.

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