Bad first impressionsTIA is embarrassing for a country that is highly dependent on tourism
The $92-million Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) improvement project has stalled indefinitely as the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan) plans to terminate its agreement with the Spanish contractor Constructora Sanjose. The accusation against the contractor is that it has been working too slowly; the project which started in December 2010 was slated to be completed in 2015. Only 17 percent physical progress has been made in the last six years. But as the project is funded by the ADB, the Caan is waiting for its consent before officially terminating the contract.
That the TIA is not getting revamped any time soon is a pity because it urgently needs some fixing. Airports are often the gateway into a country, and it is natural for some to be better than others. But our international airport is another story altogether. Impolite staff, long queues and stinking toilets are the hallmark of the TIA. It is the third worst international airport in the world, according to sleepinginairports.com, a website that does research on airports. And in recent years, its capacity to handle international aircraft has raised serious concerns.
While air traffic to Kathmandu has significantly increased over the years, airport space has not. More often than not, flights are asked to go into a holding pattern—a course flown by an aircraft while waiting for permission to land—and that too for very long periods. The Combined Action Team of the International Civil Aviation Organisation recently visited the country and its report mentioned that its aircraft was asked to hold for more than 45 minutes.
This raises concerns about air safety in the country. Although a holding pattern is a fairly easy manoeuvre compared to other tasks in instrument flying, it is a source of confusion and apprehension for exhausted pilots and hundreds of passengers. It is also needlessly damaging to the environment due to additional
This is why the improvement project, that includes expansion of the existing runway, construction of new taxiways, extension of the apron and construction of a new international terminal building, is crucial for the country. Although the Caan is correct in its decision to cancel the contract with the Spanish company, it is not a solution to our airport woes. The government needs to expedite the process of cancelling the contract and giving it to another company that is able to deliver. The dire state of the TIA is embarrassing to say the least for a country that depends a lot on tourism. A bad airport with inadequate facilities like ours is not just a nuisance for passengers, it also gives the wrong first impression to tourists, which is bad for business for obvious reasons.