Budget airlines may shift to Tarai


The Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation is mulling directing budget airlines whose passengers consist mainly of migrant workers to operate out of airports in the Tarai to ease congestion at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA).

TIA currently serves 26 international airlines. The ministry said that the number of international carriers flying to Nepal might reach 32 during Nepal Tourism Year 2011.

Considering the projected rise in flights and tourist arrivals during NTY 2011, the ministry wants to spread out flights carrying workers to the Middle East and the Gulf to the southern plains to avoid clogging TIA. "We are thinking about it," said Nagendra Prasad Ghimire, secretary at the Tourism Ministry.

"Shifting some international flights that are concentrated on the labour market to some regional airports can be an appropriate solution," said Bhola Bikram Thapa, managing director of President Travels and Tours.

He added that TIA was designed to handle 700 passengers per hour. However, 3,500 passengers are now passing through the country's only international airport hourly.

In 2009, a total of 583,139 Nepalis departed from TIA while tourist arrivals numbered 378,712. Bhairahawa, Janakpur and other regional airports in the Tarai have been named as potential international airports. However, the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) said that it would be a difficult move.

"It may take a long time to upgrade the facilities to international standards at these airports," NTB senior director Aditya Baral said.

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