42pc domestic flights cancelled last yearDomestic airlines had a bad time last year as they were forced to cancel 42 percent of their scheduled flights due to poor weather and congestion at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA).
Domestic airlines had a bad time last year as they were forced to cancel 42 percent of their scheduled flights due to poor weather and congestion at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA).
The statistics of the Tourism Ministry show that domestic airlines had to cancel 18,328 flights in 2014. Of the 44,407 scheduled flights, only 27,920 took off. Cancellations were up 45 percent compared to the previous year. In 2013, there were 12,675 flight cancellations. It wasn’t so bad for international carriers last year with 94 percent of their scheduled flights taking off. There were 845 flight cancellations by foreign airlines.
Whether due to high winds, rain or blinding fog, cancellations and delays have become a common problem for domestic carriers at TIA. Sometimes, a scheduled flight will not take off if there aren’t enough passengers.
“It is a well known fact that inclement weather is the single biggest factor causing flight cancellations and air traffic delays in Nepal,” said Pramod Nepal, under-secretary at the ministry.
Similarly, airport congestion has become a major reason for flight cancellations. Nepal said that busy air traffic caused by bad weather conditions forces a large number of international and domestic aircraft to fly a holding pattern. If this continues for a long time, aircraft waiting on the ground to take off have to cancel their flight.
According to him, until the country builds a sophisticated airport, the rate of flight cancellations will continue to climb. Airline officials said that last year was a painful year for them as a large number of flights were cancelled before and after the monsoon and bad winter weather lasted a long time.
“The December-February period is considered to be the worst period for airlines due to a pattern of frequent weather fluctuation. The weather may be clear in Kathmandu but bad in the Tarai,” said Bhim Raj Rai, ground handling manager of Yeti Airlines. “Cancellations result in substantial losses for the airline industry.”
Flight operations are halted due to adverse weather conditions, and it may take days for airlines to clear the resulting backlog of passengers. Carriers estimate that the cancellation of a long domestic flight causes a loss of Rs300,000 to Rs400,000 depending on the number of passengers and the type of aircraft.
According to the statistics, Buddha Air cancelled 4,662 flights last year and operated 10,346 out of the 15,008 scheduled flights. Its closest competitor Yeti Airlines conducted 8,247 flights and cancelled 4,415 flights. Yeti’s subsidiary Tara Air cancelled 3,542 flights and operated 2,683 flights last year.
Likewise, Simrik Airlines operated 2,943 flights and cancelled 4,127 flights. Nepal Airlines and Sita Air had grounded 641 and 622 flights respectively last year, according to the figures. Saurya Airlines operated 54 flights and cancelled 171 flights. Goma Air operated 147 flights and cancelled 148 flights last year.
Domestic air passenger movement continued to shrink for three straight years, dropping 6 percent in 2014, as high fares, bad weather conditions and a slowed economy dented demand.
TIA’s statistics showed that domestic carriers received 92,046 less flyers last year. These airlines carried 1.45 million passengers in 2014 against 1.54 million the year before. The Nepali skies saw 68,536 flights, including helicopter flights, during the review period. An average of 188 domestic planes took off and landed at TIA daily last year.