Nepal’s second international airport starts operations with domestic flights

Nepal’s second international airport – Gautam Buddha International Airport – considered a national pride project built in Lumbini, formally came into operation on April 22 with domestic flights taking off from the new airport.

The country’s first international airport, Tribhuvan International Airport, came into operation 74 years ago. Yeti Airlines conducted the first flight from the new airport’s 3,000-metre runway.

BWA’s new runway replaces the old one that sits adjacent, but only spans 1,500 meters (4,921 feet) in length. The longer runway will allow BWA to accommodate widebody aircraft, thereby paving the way for long-haul flights to and from Nepal.

Yeti Airlines conducted the first flight from the new airport’s 3,000-metre runway.

Common widebodies like the Boeing 777, Airbus A330, etc., require less than 3,000 meters of runway length to take off. Nepal Airlines is likely to take advantage of BWA’s upgraded facilities by serving international destinations using its Airbus A330 jets.

According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, both narrow-body and wide-body aircraft will conduct flights to and from GBIA.

Director General of the CAAN Pradip Adhikari tweeted, “It is my pleasure to share the historic moment that Gautam Budhha International Airport has come into operation. Thank you all for your contributions. This is a milestone for Nepali civil aviation.”

Although domestic airlines have started conducting flights from the newly-built airport, international flights will commence on May 16 to coincide with Buddha Jayanti.

ALSO READ – Nepal’s second international airport will start operation in May 2022

According to CAAN Spokesperson Chandra Lal Karna, the old runway has been converted into a taxiway. He said an agreement had been reached between the CAAN and Jazeera Air of Kuwait to operate flights from the airport three days a week after international flights come into operation.

“If all goes well, Jazeera Air will conduct flights from the airport around midnight on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays after Buddha Jayanti,” Karna told The Himalayan Times. He said the newly-built airport would directly employ roughly around 300 people.

Stating that GBIA was constructed to accommodate parking for aircraft and as an alternative landing zone apart from TIA, CAAN Spokesperson Karna said the airport would also ease travel and make air commute cheaper.

Nepal’s second international airport starts operations with domestic flights

He said an agreement had been reached with the Nepal Airline Corporation to conduct ground handling payments. Of the total payments collected by NAC, 15% will be given to CAAN.

“Of the total fuel sales collected from GBIA every month, CAAN will receive 0.05% of the earning,” he added. In terms of air routes, aircraft will conduct flights from the same routes used earlier.

By doing so, flight times to and from the airport will be reduced, making airfares cheaper for passengers, Karna stated. The airport can be used as an alternative landing spot in case of emergencies or if for any reason TIA is unsuitable for landing

With tourist arrivals increasing in recent days, residents around the airport hope that the COVID-battered tourism industry would steadily recover.

Although domestic airlines have started conducting flights from the newly-built airport, international flights will commence on May 16 to coincide with Buddha Jayanti.

With the new airport complete and ready for use, the Nepalese authorities can focus on other ongoing airport upgradation projects around the country. The land-locked country finally seems to be taking its airport infrastructure seriously as it looks to add a few more names to its list of international airports soon.

Authorities are completing the construction of the third international airport, located in the Gandaki province. The Pokhara International Airport is set to open later this year and is aimed at regional international flights to neighbouring countries of India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Pakistan, etc.

Next, Nepalese authorities are also planning to build the Nijgadh International Airport in Madhesh Federal province. The project was set to be completed by 2025 but has run into some trouble with environmental protection laws. The Supreme Court of Nepal halted construction in December 2020.

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