Nepal sees increased connectivity to Middle Eastern hubs; Delhi busiest route

Image: Actress Joanna Lumley at Tribhuvan Airport following her successful campaign to win Gurkha veterans rights to live in the UK.
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.

Image: Tribhuvan International AirportNestled 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.

MAP: nepal

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
2 757-200
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
Image: Yeti Airlines Map

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.

Image: Bahrain Air launched a three times weekly service to Kathmandu in March
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, 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 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 (2)
22 Jan 08 Kuala Lumpur (3)
06 Feb 08 Abu Dhabi (5)
17 Mar 09 Bahrain Bahrain Air (3)
17 Jul 09 Kunming China Eastern (3)
Source: 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.

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