Planes flying with empty seatsNepal Airlines has been flying with 50 seats empty on its Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong services in order to save weight so that the aircraft can carry extra fuel
Nepal Airlines has been flying with 50 seats empty on its Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong services in order to save weight so that the aircraft can carry extra fuel since Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) has stopped refuelling services at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) after the blockade by India cut off shipments.
The national flag carrier said that it had been forced to offload 15 passengers on its Airbus A320 flights to Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore.
Likewise, most foreign carriers serving Nepal have been offloading at least 25 passengers per flight after the tough decision made by the government to conserve jet fuel stocks amid a deepening fuel crisis.
“Since September 30, we have been putting fewer passengers on our inbound flights,” said Ram Hari Sharma. Nepal Airlines has been refuelling its jets at Delhi and Kolkata airports.
“The extra fuel we have been carrying by offloading passengers is enough to fulfil our needs only.” He added that the corporation was losing $10,000 on each flight as a result of the measure.
The October-November period is the peak season for airlines due to the festive rush in Nepal which coincides with the tourist season.
Airline officials said that inbound flights on the Middle East and Malaysia sectors were almost 90 percent booked for October.
According to Bharat Kumar Shrestha, president of the Airlines Operators Committee, the situation has been worsening as airlines have been incurring financial losses and the government seems to have no immediate plan to end the crisis.
“Offloading 25-30 passengers on a single flight is a huge loss. Besides, airlines have to pay extra landing charges when making refuelling stops at different airports in India and Bangladesh.”
Shrestha said that if the jet fuel problem was not resolved immediately, international airlines may rethink maintaining their Nepal services.
This year, foreign airlines connecting Nepal suffered the biggest business losses. On March 4, a Turkish Airlines jet crashed at TIA which closed down the airport for four consecutive days. At least 60,000 passengers were affected by the accident that occurred at the country’s sole international airport.
Subsequently, the country was rattled by the April 25 earthquake.
International airlines were forced to cut more than 60 percent of their flights to Nepal due to a drop in traveller movement in the aftermath of the earthquake.
Five months after the disaster, just as airlines were starting to resume normal flights, the fuel shortage sent everything haywire.
Except for China Southern Airlines, none of them has cancelled their Nepal flights. “But if the fuel problem is not resolved soon, other airlines could suspend their Nepal services too as they wouldn’t want to continue with a loss-making operation,” Shrestha added.