Summit Air’s aircraft that landed in Humde Airport, Manang, on Friday. Photo: Republica
POKHARA, Sept 15: A flight from Pokhara to Manang was operated last Friday in a bid to reconnect Humde Airport of Manang to the country’s air network. An aircraft of Summit Air, a private-sector airline company, had conducted the test flight.
The provincial government of Gandaki Province had operated the chartered flight with an aim of operating regular flights in the sector.
Though the provincial government has a plan to operate regular flights on the route, there is no surety on when it will happen.
Minister for Industry, Tourism and Environment for Gandaki Province, Bikash Lamsal said that the flight will benefit locals and tourists who come for trekking along the route of Pokhara to Annapurna. Chief Minister Prithivi Subba Gurung, Tourism Minister Lamsal, and other high-level officials had reached Manang on the test flight on Friday.
“The Pokhara-Manang direct flight has started,” Lamsal said, “There were few tourists in Pokhara but we saw many tourists trekking in Manang. The flight will make transportation easier for locals, tourists, and trekkers.” He said that the flight will help movement of trekkers from Manang to Pokhara. Though Lamsal said that the regular flights will take place, he did not mention the exact dates.
Summit Air used its LET-L-410 Turbolet aircraft for the flight. The 18-seater aircraft with the call sign 9N-AMG had made the round trip in the Pokhara-Hunde route.
Poshan Mani Tripathi, Summit Air’s manager at Pokhara said that though the chartered flight took place on Friday, there has been no decision about the operation of regular flight. “The plan is to operate flights one day a week effective from October but we have not finalized the date,” he said, “Also the flight schedule and ticket price has not been fixed.”
He said it was not an easy job to operate flights in the Humde Airporat located in the mountain region.
“If the operation of flights was easy, private companies would definitely run flights in the route,” he said, “The base for profitable operation of flights is still weak, because of which private companies are not ready to operate regular flights.”
The airport which was in operation till May 11, 2013, had not seen scheduled flight since then. There have been chartered flights during elections to transport election-related materials, but regular flights has not resumed in the area. According to Surya Khatri, air traffic officer at Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), there used to be 6 flight-- 4 from Pokhara and 2 from Kathmandu every week before the airport was blacktopped.
Nepal Airlines Corporation had been operating 4 flights from Pokhara and private company Tara (subsidiary of Yeti Airlines) was operating two flights to the destination.
Binod Gurung, a tourism entrepreneur, said that the number of domestic tourists has increased and there is a chance of getting the flights back to regular. “Government-owned airlines would be ready to operate flights even if they had to make losses. But for private airlines operators, people are not that confident (that flights would be regular).” he said, “If flights could be carried out for 2-3 days a week, passengers would have confident and would plan accordingly. So, the airlines operators need to keep up with the losses for some time.” He said that air service will make travelling for older people and children easier.
Currently, it takes 6 hours to reach Besisahar, Lamjung from Manang via road.