International air passenger numbers rebound to near pre-Covid levelsAccording to Tribhuvan International Airport, 3.48 million international air travellers passed through last year, up 141.61 percent from 2021.
Nepal’s international air passenger numbers rebounded sharply in 2022, reaching 84 percent of pre-Covid 2019 levels.
According to Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, the country’s main gateway, 3.48 million international air travellers passed through last year, up 141.61 percent from 2021. In 2021, the airport saw 1.44 million international travellers, a 65.11 percent plunge from 2019 figures.
In terms of flight movement, Tribhuvan International Airport handled 24,312 take-offs and landings. In 2019, there were 32,439 flight movements.
On March 5, 2022, Nepal lifted all Covid-19 related restrictions that had been in place since 2020 following a steep drop in coronavirus cases.
Subsequently, on March 10, Nepal threw the door wide open to foreign tourists, removing all pre-arrival testing requirements for fully vaxxed travellers in a bid to recharge its moribund tourism industry.
“We will surpass the 2019 traffic volume, in terms of passenger numbers, this year,” said Pratap Babu Tiwari, general manager of Tribhuvan International Airport.
“China’s announcement to open up outbound tourism has provided a major boost to Nepal, in business and tourism travel,” he said.
Beijing has allowed its citizens to visit Nepal from March 15 after banning travel for more than three years.
Chinese airlines have also started resuming their flights to Nepal.
Sichuan Airlines has announced that it will resume its scheduled flights to and from Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport from March 20.
The carrier will conduct four weekly flights from Chengdu on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, according to a statement issued by the airline.
Guangzhou-based China Southern Airlines, the largest airline in China in terms of passenger volume, resumed flights on the Kathmandu-Guangzhou sector in November last year after a break of nearly a year and a half.
The carrier operates two flights a week—on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
Air China resumed its Chengdu-Kathmandu flights in September last year and currently operates two weekly flights.
“The Chinese carriers will gradually increase their flights to 2019 levels,” said Tiwari.
March-May is also the peak season for trekking and mountaineering activities in Nepal.
As the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal has implemented the new Airport Service Charge Regulation 2022, hiking the service charge threefold for international passengers, Kathmandu’s airport may see a robust profit this year, insiders said.
Airport authorities say that despite challenges such as global economic uncertainty and inflationary pressures, travel movement in Nepal started to boom from March.
Tourist traffic dropped slightly following the Yeti Airlines crash on January 15 as hordes of travellers cancelled their Nepal trip.
The situation started returning to normal in March.
According to Tiwari, Kathmandu’s airport has been receiving more than 12,000 passengers daily.
“With these numbers, we are confident of progressively restoring connectivity and traffic to pre-Covid levels, or higher, this year,” said Tiwari.
A breakdown by airline shows that Doha-based Qatar Airways carried the most passengers in 2022. It flew 620,367 travellers last year, up 104.36 percent year-on-year. In 2019, it served 462,039 passengers.
Nepal Airlines took the second spot in passenger carriage in 2022, posting a 102.71 percent jump by flying 577,653 travellers.
Even then the national flag carrier is still a long way from its pre-Covid 2019 passenger number of 735,835.
Nepal’s private carrier Himalaya Airlines saw the number of passengers increase to 384,748, up 50.48 percent from 2021.
Dubai-based low-cost carrier FlyDubai saw its passenger carriage jump 135.33 percent last year, as compared to 2021 data. The airline flew 353,691 travellers in 2022.
Indian low-cost airline IndiGo, which did not operate a single flight in 2021, received 216,563 passengers last year.
Another low-cost carrier Air Arabia flew 172,404 passengers last year, up 72.75 percent compared to 2021.
Tata Group-owned Air India saw its passenger carriage increase by 116.63 percent. The airline flew 151,570 passengers in 2022. The Tata Group bought Air India on October 8, 2021.
Singapore Airlines carried 140,794 passengers in 2022.
Jazeera Airways, Kuwait's leading low-cost airline, which operated its maiden flight in November 2019, flew 125,890 travellers in 2022, up 83.26 percent from the previous year.
Low-cost carrier Air Arabia Abu Dhabi, which started its Kathmandu service in October 2020, carried 102,164 passengers last year, up 159.54 percent from the previous year.