People face hard time getting tickets to fly out from Bajura airportMiddlemen have been buying tickets from airlines and selling them at higher prices, local residents say.
Bhaipura Aidi of Humla had to wait for ten days before he could secure air tickets to fly from Bajura Airport in Kolti Municipality to Nepalgunj. Aidi had reached Kolti on October 14 to fly his sick relative to Nepalgunj or Dhangadhi for treatment.
He spent most of his money meant for treatment on accommodation and food while waiting for flight tickets.
“We spent a significant amount of money we had taken as loan for my relative’s treatment in Kolti, where we stayed for ten days while waiting for our air tickets,” said Aidi. “We were able to reach Nepalgunj only on the 11th day of leaving home.”
Like Aidi, many people from Bajura and neighbouring districts leaving the region after Dashain or for treatments have been stranded for over two weeks in Kolti. The road network connecting the district to the rest of the country has been obstructed for over a month, leaving the locals with no alternative but to fly out of Bajura airport.
But according to passengers, the middlemen involved in the trade of securing flight tickets from airlines have been selling tickets at hiked up prices and have gained control over the availability of seats.
According to Janesh Bhandari, a resident of Kolti, passengers travelling to Dhangadhi or Nepalgunj are being asked to pay Rs 10,000 for a flight ticket that costs Rs5,500. He complained that the general public are facing difficulties due to the mismanagement of airline representatives.
“There is an acute mismanagement in the sale of air tickets and the local people are facing the brunt of inaction from authorities,” Bhandari said.
Although the locals have to pay twice the actual airfare, some like Aidi see no option but to wait on the middlemen for air tickets.
“We have no clue when the brokers will start selling tickets,” said Lalit Dhami of Bajura, who has been waiting to buy a ticket for the past week. “The general public does not have access to air tickets.”
The disgruntled passengers, five days ago, had even organised a protest in Kolti against the mismanagement of airline authorities in the distribution of tickets.
“The airlines’ representatives do not come in contact with the customers,” said Dhami.
The chief of the Kotli branch of the Civil Aviation Office Srikrishna Rijal informed that Summit Airlines, Nepal Airlines, Tara Airlines and Sita Airlines are currently operating from the airport but he did not comment on the irregularity of ticket sales and brokering.
He blamed the airlines for not flying regularly to Bajura, leaving passengers stranded.
“Summit Airlines is the only airline flying to and from the airport on a daily basis while other airlines provide service irregularly,” said Rijal. “Nepal Airlines began its services only a week ago.”
Police Inspector Debendra Joshi, stationed at the airport security guard office, said
that police personnel have been monitoring the situation after receiving complaints of middlemen operating in the shadows.
“Police personnel are facilitating passengers in getting flight tickets. We are also checking if tickets are being sold at a higher price,” said Joshi. “We have been told that some passengers are paying twice the fare to secure seats on a flight but no one has yet come forward to register a formal complaint with us.”
Joshi informed that the police have asked the airline companies to distribute 10 tickets, including six tickets for VIPs, sick passengers and those in an emergency, before they sell out.
“The situation at the airport is returning to normal since the system was implemented,” Joshi said.