|A busy Kathmandu earlier this week. Nepal may have recently lost its monarchy, but it has gained a living deity: Actress Joanna Lumley at Tribhuvan Airport following her successful campaign to win Gurkha veterans rights to live in the UK.|
Nestled in a mountainous region separating India and China, Nepal is probably best known for the Himalayan mountain range which contains Mount Everest. The country has some 30 airports which are capable of handling aircraft operated by local scheduled airlines, but only one, Tribhuvan International Airport serving Kathmandu, handles international flights. This week the airport was in the news, at least in the UK media, when actress Joanna Lumley (The New Avengers, Sapphire & Steel, Absolutely Fabulous) came to visit Nepal to celebrate her successful campaign on behalf of Nepalese Gurkha soldiers to allow veterans to settle in the UK.
Yeti Airlines leading domestic carrier
There are a number of scheduled carriers operating in the domestic market. Of these the largest is Yeti Airlines which operates a variety of turboprop aircraft though none has more than 30 seats.
|Airline||Fleet||Domestic destinations served|
|Agni Air||3 Dornier 228
2 Jetstream 41
|Bhadrapur, Biratnagar, Janakpur, Jomsom, Kathmandu, Lukla, Nepalgunj, Phaplu, Pokhara, Simara, Tumlingtar|
|Buddha Air||3 ATR 42
5 Beech 1900
|Bhadrapur, Bhairahawa, Bharatpur, Biratnagar, Dhangadhi, Janakpur, Nepalgunj, Pokhara, Simara|
|Gorkha Airlines||2 Dornier 228||Biratnagar, Janakpur, Jomsom, Lukla, Pokhara, Tumlingtar|
|Nepal Airlines||7 DH-6 Twin Otter
|Bhadrapur, Bharatpur, Bhojpur, Lukla, Phaplu, Ramechhap, Rumjatar, Simara, Surkhet, Tumlingtar|
|Yeti Airlines||6 Jetstream 41
4 DH-6 Twin Otter
2 Dornier 228
2 Pilatus Porter
|Bhadrapur, Bhairahawa, Bharatpur, Biratnagar, Dolpo, Jumlu, Kathmandu, Lamidanda, Lukla, Meghauly, Nepalgunj, Phaplu, Pokhara, Rukum, Rumjatar, Simikot, Surkhet, Taplejung,|
|Source: Airline websites|
International traffic dominated by regional links
There are non-stop scheduled flights from Kathmandu to some 14 countries. By far the busiest and most competitive route is to Delhi on which no less than five carriers compete for traffic. Major regional hubs such as Bangkok, Hong Kong, Seoul and Singapore are all served by the likes of Thai Airways, Dragonair, Korean Air and Silk Air.
|Bahrain Air launched a three times weekly service to Kathmandu in March. Ibrahim Alhamer, Bahrain Air managing director, said: “With the strengthening of economic ties between the Kingdom of Bahrain and Nepal, there has been a marked increase in business and tourist traffic between the two countries. This calls for enhanced connectivity and Bahrain Air is fulfilling this need.”|
Middle eastern hubs are also well served from Kathmandu. Bahrain flights are operated by both Bahrain Air and Gulf Air, Doha is served by Qatar Airways, Abu Dhabi by Etihad and Sharjah by Air Arabia. In early 2008 Air Arabia launched a joint venture with Yeti Airlines to create flyyeti.com, which operated a single (from Futura) leased 737-800 to Abu Dhabi, Doha and Kuala Lumpur. The airline ceased operation in July of the same year. According to the anna.aero new route database the following routes have been started to/from Kathmandu in the last two years.
|Date||Destination||Airline (weekly frequency)|
|15 Sep 07||Bangkok||Orient Thai Airlines (3)|
|21 Oct 07||Abu Dhabi||Etihad (4)|
|30 Oct 07||Singapore||Silk Air (3)|
|02 Dec 07||Hong Kong||Dragonair (4)|
|13 Dec 07||Hong Kong||Hong Kong Express (3)|
|20 Jan 08||Sharjah||Flyyeti.com (2)|
|22 Jan 08||Kuala Lumpur||Flyyeti.com (3)|
|06 Feb 08||Abu Dhabi||Flyyeti.com (5)|
|17 Mar 09||Bahrain||Bahrain Air (3)|
|17 Jul 09||Kunming||China Eastern (3)|
|Source: anna.aero new route database|
From early October there will be non-stop flights to Europe when Arkefly (the Dutch airline owned by TUI) begins weekly flights from Amsterdam.
Royal Nepal Airlines operates just two 757-200s with which it currently serves Delhi daily, Dubai and Kuala Lumpur four-times weekly, Hong Kong thrice-weekly and Bangkok twice-weekly.