Passengers protest Nepal Airlines’ hasty departureThirty-one passengers say they were not informed of the change in departure time which led to them missing their flight.
State-owned carrier Nepal Airlines, often blamed for habitual flight cancellations and delays, surprised its Dubai-bound passengers on Wednesday night.
It flew two hours prior to its schedule, leaving 31 passengers stranded at the airport at midnight. They were later put up in a hotel by the airlines.
The reason for the rushed departure was the flight’s VVIP status. Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal was on the same flight. The flight was preponed for Dahal who left for Dubai leading the Nepali delegation to the 28th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 28).
The two-week-long UN Climate Change Conference started on November 30.
Nepal Airlines officials said 31 passengers missed the flight but it was not negligence on their part.
Flight RA229 was scheduled to take off at 11:30 pm on Wednesday from Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport and accordingly, the passengers reached the airport two hours before the flight as per the instructions printed on the tickets.
When they (31 passengers) reached the counter of Nepal Airlines, they were surprised to hear that their flight had taken off two hours before—at 9:30 pm.
Prajwal Vikram Rana, one of the passengers who missed the flight and a participant of the COP28 posted a video on a social media platform criticising Nepal Airlines for its sheer negligence.
“I was about to take the 11:30 pm flight from Kathmandu to Dubai. Our Prime Minister was also scheduled to go on the same flight. But the plane took off with the prime minister two hours before its scheduled time,” he said in the video.
“It’s sheer negligence on Nepal Airlines’ part. The officials did not inform many of us about the change in the departure time.”
Hours after the video went viral, on Thursday morning, Rana wrote on his Facebook page that Nepal Airlines has managed flights for 11 of them.
“We are boarding right now. The remaining passengers are in the hotel and the airline has said they will try to manage their flight today. After I return from Dubai, I will register the complaint at the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN),” he wrote.
A Nepal Airlines official at the airport counter said that some furious passengers chanted in unison voicing displeasure on Thursday morning.
Nepal Airlines has managed flights for 11 through other airlines.
“We will arrange flights for other passengers by this evening,” said Ramesh Paudel, spokesperson of Nepal Airlines.
He insisted that there was no negligence on their part and that the Dubai flight schedule was revised on November 23, a week before its departure date.
“Due to the VVIP flights, the decision was not made public. We, however, informed each and everyone through email and phones the following day on November 24,” said Paudel.
“It was the prime minister’s flight and we just followed the VVIP protocol.”
According to him, Nepal Airlines has an auto system nowadays which informs passengers if there is any revision in the flight time and plan. “Accordingly, our system sent emails to the passengers. We even made phone calls.”
The travel agencies from where the passengers had booked the flights, too, were informed.
“We don’t know if the travel agents communicated the change in departure time to the passengers.”
According to him, most of the passengers reached the airport on the revised time.
“We don’t know why the 31 passengers came late.”