TIA going to the dogs: ReportRude staff, long lines, poor facilities and a chaotic environment. This is what Nepal’s only international airport, Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) in Kathmandu, is now known for.
Rude staff, long lines, poor facilities and a chaotic environment. This is what Nepal’s only international airport, Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) in Kathmandu, is now known for. Varied problems plague TIA which handles 3.51 million passengers annually, said a government fact-finding committee in a report released on Monday.
TIA has been gathering ample criticism over the past few years, and a number of independent surveys have put it among the worst airports in the world.
“One of the major concerns is the airport’s security. Many vulnerable loopholes remain in the airport’s no-go or sterile area due to management problems,” said Hari Bahadur Khadka, under-secretary of the Tourism Ministry, who led the six-member probe committee. “The loopholes have allowed people to engage in illegal activities in the sensitive areas without getting caught.”
The report, which has been submitted to Tourism Minister Aananda Prasad Pokhrel, has recommended providing training to airport security personnel and setting up a separate airport security unit of the Nepal Police.
The report has pointed out that immigration staffers lack civility, smartness and language proficiency while dealing with foreign travellers. The security personnel deployed at the baggage check and security lack discipline, the report said.
As Nepal Oil Corporation fuel depot at the airport poses a hazard, the committee has recommended relocating it to avoid untoward happenings in the future.
The risk was glaringly revealed last March when a Turkish Airlines jet skidded off the runway and on to the grass, dangerously close to the oil tanks.
Likewise, the airport has not properly managed its electrical wiring. “The naked electric cables at the airport are a fire hazard,” Khadka told a press meet at TIA.
A number of basic facilities like toilets, chairs, telephone and Wi-Fi, among others, are lacking at the airport. Foreign travellers flying out of TIA have to dish out Rs3,300 as airport service charge for non-existent services.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan) collects Rs1,130 as airport development tax and another Rs1,130 as passenger
service charge from each international passenger departing from TIA. Likewise, the Nepal Tourism Board collects a service fee of Rs1,130 from each foreign traveller flying out of TIA.
On the arrivals front, travellers have had to wait for three hours to collect their baggage due to a limited
number of luggage belts and inadequate manpower, the report said.
“Even if the baggage is processed smoothly, it takes around an hour for passengers to get it due to limited luggage belts,” a Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) official said. NAC holds the contract to provide ground handling services at TIA.
TIA’s General Manager Devananda Upadhyay admitted that the airport had not been providing services of international standard and that cleanliness remained a big problem.
“Although we have allocated a huge chunk of our resources to improve services, we don’t have a trained workforce to do it,” he said. “We had invited global bids to provide better services at TIA, but foreign companies showed no interest,” he added.
TIA officials said that the facilities like baggage belts and toilets that date from the airport’s early days had passed their life span but had not been replaced.
Upadhyay said that they would be installing two new baggage belts soon. “We have procured the baggage belts, but the shipment is stuck at Kolkata port due to the transit problem resulting from India’s unofficial trade embargo,” Upadhyay said.
“There have been some improvements at TIA, but not enough to bring it up to international standards.”
Airport authorities said that the departure lounge had only one small toilet, and that it could not handle the rush of 500 passengers that occurs during peak time.
Likewise, the report has pointed out that the banks housed inside the airport are also cheating travellers. For example, the banks entrusted to collect visa fees do not return the change or make customers wait for a long time so that they feel irritated and leave. Likewise, the foreign exchange rates at the money exchange counters inside the airport vary vastly.
Tourism Secretary Dinesh Kumar Thapaliya said that major agencies like TIA, immigration and security had not been fulfilling their individual responsibilities to improve services and passing the buck.
“A small initiative from each of them can make a big difference, but in the case of improvement, no one seems to be serious,” he said.
“The first impression travellers get when they reach a new destination is the
airport, and everyone should work in tandem to improve the facilities.”
Meanwhile, Minister Pokhrel has directed the three major agencies to hold a review meeting each week to monitor what has been done to improve services.