Buddha Air for policy change


KATHMANDU: Buddha Airlines, which is planning to operate international flights, needs a policy change so that it can operate its turbo-propelled aircraft on international flights, with Pokhara as its second hub. According to the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoTCA), the proposal for the international flights operation by Buddha Airlines has been forwarded to the cabinet and the airlines needs to fulfill Terms of Reference to get the permission for international flight operations.

Buddha Airlines senior marketing manager Rupesh Joshi said the only hurdle is that for the domestic airlines in operating international flights is the lack of a jet engine, but they are trying to operate its ATR-72. Currently, the airline is operating its ATR-42 that has 47-seat capacity but as soon as it gets permission to operate its international flights it will operate its ATR-72 that has 70-seat capacity. The ATR-72 will be a low budget airliner which will have 2-3 flights per week. The frequency of flights will be increased according to passenger requirements.

“ Tribhuwan International Airport is suffering from air congestion, and to reduce airport congestion there is a need to establish a second aviation hub. Pokhara is one of the major tourist destinations which can be developed as a second hub,” said Joshi. The India-Nepal agreement allows airlines from both countries to offer 30,000 seats per week to and from Nepal to five cities and 21 other destinations in India including Dehradun, Bagdogra, Lucknow and Gorakhpur — an increment in the number of seats available. These moves would launch a flood of Indian tourists to Nepal. Indian airlines currently allow 6,000 seats per week.

Domestic airlines targeting quality tourist and planning to boost Nepal in term of pilgrimage tourism are now planning to airlink a major tourist destination — Pokhara — with Indian cities to attract more visitors from the neighbouring country.

Buddha Air is working to establish direct flight connectivity between Pokhara and cities like Lucknow, Delhi, Patna and Varanasi. The initiative is also aimed at easing travel hazards of pilgrims to Muktinath Dham, a shrine of Lord Vishnu, besides boosting local trade. “Lucknow has almost been confirmed followed by Delhi as its next destination and rest of the Indian cities later,” said Joshi. Pokhara, a picturesque valley town 200-km west of Kathmandu is a hot destination for three-pronged tourism in adventure, pilgrimage and air-sports.

Pokhara is being promoted as a pilgrimage centre, especially to attract Indians. The valley is the gateway to Muktinath Dham. Thousands of pilgrims from southern parts of India and Kolkata flock the town every year. However, maximum Indian arrivals are from Delhi and National Capital region which includes Gurgaon, Noida, Faizabad and Ghaziabad.

In context to air sports, Pokhara is the only place in the Himalayan nation to host paragliding, mountain biking and Ultra-light aircraft, which gives a feeling of flying like a bird. Air sports can be enjoyed in Pokhara. Capitalising this, Pokhara will be focused for its promotion. The lake city has great potential to become an adventure tourism hotspot.

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