As crisis looms, foreign airlines refuel elsewhereMost international airlines serving Nepal have changed aircraft and their refueling points after being informed by Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) that it would be halting refueling services
Most international airlines serving Nepal have changed aircraft and their refueling points after being informed by Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) that it would be halting refueling services at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) from Tuesday.
TIA authorities have barred foreign carriers from taking fuel at TIA citing a worsening jet fuel crisis caused by the unofficial trade embargo imposed by India. Airport officials said that the tough decision followed strong requests from NOC.
The first casualty of the decision was China Southern Airlines which has cancelled its flights to Nepal until October 10. According to travel agencies, most east-bound flights have decided to stop in Dhaka, Bangladesh and Kolkata to refuel on their return flight. West-bound flights have decided to stop for fuel in Lucknow. Airline officials said that changing the refueling point would result in an extra financial burden of at least $8,000 per flight.
Dragon Air, Korean Air, Malaysian Airlines, Malindo Air and other carriers have decided to refuel in Dhaka. Silk Air will stop its return flight in Kolkata. Likewise, Fly Dubai, Air Arabia and Oman Air will be stopping in Lucknow to refuel. Turkish Airlines will stop in Delhi. Osho World Travel Nepal said that some foreign carriers had decided to fly different aircraft on their Nepal service. Etihad Airways that used to make two daily flights using a narrow-body jet has decided to fly a wide-body jet and carry return fuel.
Similarly, Qatar Airways has decided to fly wide-body aircraft and carry return fuel. Air China will be using a wide-body aircraft on the Chengdu-Kathmandu flight and a narrow-body jet on the Lhasa-Kathmandu route.
Turkish, Dragon, Korean, Air Asia, Thai and Qatar fly wide-body aircraft on the Nepal sector. Air Asia’s A330 aircraft can accommodate up to 377 passengers, while the highest seating capacity of Bhutan-based Druk Air’s narrow-body aircraft A319 is 114 passengers.
“None of the airlines flying narrow-body jets from India, Bangladesh or Bhutan has been affected by the latest decision,” said Deepak Basnet, ticketing executive of Osho World Travel Nepal. “The decision has affected airlines flying narrow-body jets on flights lasting more than three hours.”
Basnet said that TIA had been hit by refueling problems during the height of the travel season when Nepali migrant workers return in hordes to celebrate the Dashain and Tihar festivals which start in October.
He added that inbound flights on the Middle East and Malaysia sectors were almost 90 percent booked for October. Likewise, bookings on China Southern for the festive season have crossed 80 percent.
“The October-November period is also Nepal’s peak tourist season. However, due to the violent activities and strikes in the Tarai, most tourists have postponed their Nepal trips till November,” Basnet said. “There have also been some cancellations from potential visitors.”
Dhiraj Chandra Shrestha, deputy sales manager of China Southern, said that they had been flying a 115-seater A319 on the Kathmandu-Guangzhou route which cannot carry a full load of passengers, cargo and a full load of fuel. “So we have decided to cancel our flights effective from Tuesday till October 10 due to lack of jet fuel in Nepal,” Shrestha said, adding that passengers who had booked seats would be rerouted or their money would be fully refunded. He said that the airline would remain in a wait and see mode until October 10. “We have also been discussing with Bangladesh to provide refueling facilities.”
Homework begins on airlifting jet fuel
The Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) on Tuesday said that it had started homework to airlift jet fuel from the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, using Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) jets. NOC Managing Director Gopal Bahadur Khadka said it will become easier to airlift jet fuel from Dhaka due to the proximity. He, however, said that airlifting other products like petrol and diesel would not be feasible due to the cost factor.