Airlines strain to handle festive rushDomestic airlines have been facing an extremely high traffic load as a large number of people working or studying in the Kathmandu Valley have started returning home to celebrate Dashain with their families.
Domestic airlines have been facing an extremely high traffic load as a large number of people working or studying in the Kathmandu Valley have started returning home to celebrate Dashain with their families.
The Dashain travel rush, a long-held tradition, is considered to be the largest annual migration in Nepal.
Carriers said they had received an unprecedented number of flyers this festive season due to the Tarai unrest that has cut off highways and crippled overland transportation.
In addition, the fuel shortage has paralyzed the transport sector for the last three weeks, resulting in a short travel window and overcrowded public transport systems. Airlines have been witnessing a full passenger load for the last one and a half months.
“Private airlines had not seen such a travel rush before,” said Prajwol Thapa, senior marketing manager of Simrik Airlines. “In the past, we used to receive high traffic for a week starting from Ghatasthapana; but this year, airlines have been flying with full passenger loads for the last one and a half months.”
Airlines said that all the flights to the eastern region—Bhadrapur, Biratnagar and Janakpur—had been sold out. Flight frequencies on these sectors have been doubled to 30 flights daily.
“Despite the sharp rise in flight frequency, we have not been able to cope with the increasing traffic demand on these three sectors,” said Bhim Raj Rai, media manager of Yeti Airlines. “All the flights are sold out until October 22.” Rai said that they had been planning to add extra flights on these routes.
However, flights to the western sector like Nepalgunj, Bhairahawa and Dhangadhi have around 10 percent vacancies, airlines said.
According to Thapa, airlines have been conducting 15-16 flights daily in the western sector, up from nine to 10 flights during normal times.
According to Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), the Dashain and Tihar festival season accounts for 20 percent of the 1.45 million annual domestic traveller movement.
The sudden rise in traveller movement due to the Tarai unrest has brought happiness to domestic carriers after their business was severely affected for at least four months by the April 25 earthquake. However, they are worried by the worsening aviation fuel shortage after India imposed an unofficial trade blockade. Domestic air passenger movement has continued to shrink for three straight years, dropping 6 percent in 2014, as high fares, bad weather conditions and a slowed economy dented demand, according to the TIA.
Domestic carriers received 92,046 less flyers last year. They carried 1.45 million
passengers in 2014 against 1.54 million in 2013. This figure includes the 26,256 passengers flown by the country’s seven helicopter companies, TIA said.