Passengers getting off Shree Airlines aircraft at Pokhara Airport.
POKHARA, Feb 25: Passengers in the Pokhara-Kathmandu route are flying for Rs 2,800 per person which earlier used to cost up to Rs 5,050. Earlier, the passengers could not get the tickets easily and used to have complaints that the tickets were not available for cheaper price in the route.
Domestic airlines used to sell tickets for higher prices because of the increasing number of passengers. The high air fares had discouraged passengers from flying. But now the tickets are available for half of the price compared to last year. Airlines operators have stated that the recent price cut has increased the flow of domestic passengers.
Airlines companies state two reasons for the decreased fare; though it is a tourist season, there are very few international tourists and the competition between the airlines. The arrival of Chinese tourists has decreased and the fear of coronavirus has also caused the decline of tourists from other regions. Airlines companies have been filling the vacant seats with domestic passengers by selling tickets for cheaper prices. An airline station manager at Pokhara said that the lack of passengers has persisted as the company has maintained the flight frequency. The companies were at ease a few years ago when they operated small-sized aircraft. It was easier for them to fill the seats but now the 80-seater aircraft are in operation in the route.
“The flow of international tourists has declined, so we are dependent on domestic passengers,” said Gautam Baral, station manager of Buddha Air for Pokhara, “Though domestic passengers have increased, we don't acquire hundred percent occupancy and instead of leaving the aircraft vacant, we attract domestic passengers with cheap airfare.” He said that the reduction in airfare has benefited the passengers.
According to Baral, the number of passengers from Pokhara to Kathmandu is high in comparison to passengers from Kathmandu to Pokhara. “If there were a steady flow of international tourists, the fare would not go down to this extent but there is a decline in tourists and domestic passengers are also not using the service as we had expected,” Baral said, “The airfare is cheap because of the competition to attract domestic passengers.”
Corporate manager of Shree Airlines, Anil Manandhar said that the operation of bigger aircraft benefits domestic passengers. “If there are seats available in the flight, prices are slashed to attract passengers,” he said, “Pokhara is a tourist destination, so there are many domestic tourists and they are getting cheaper tickets because of lack of international tourists.”
According to Pom Narayan Shrestha, past president of Nepal Association of Tour and Travel Agents (NATTA), the increasing competition between big aircraft and the lack of international tourists have contributed to the cheaper service. “Some months ago, it was hard to secure air tickets for Pokhara-Kathmandu route but now they have the chance to travel in half the price,” said Shrestha, “The operation of big aircraft has caused this situation. Prior to this, small aircraft with fewer seats would fill instantly making it easier for the airline operators. Now the price has been adjusted to fill the seats.”