In the face of a high likelihood of the runway problem resurfacing again, Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), the only international airport in the country, is facing a severe crisis.
Potholes in the only runway of the only international airport of the nation has been proving as a major headache for the TIA and the international airlines companies which are flying wide body aircraft to Nepal. In light of the current plight, Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) has requested international airlines operating wide-body aircraft in Nepal to limit their landing and takeoff weight to 196 tons, as far as possible.
With the runway crisis looking set to stay around, one sector that will undoubtedly suffer most is tourism. As one of the peak tourist seasons is looming closer, the problem is set to send shockwaves to the recovering tourism sector.
Hotel Association of Nepal (HAN), Nepal Association of Tour Operators (NATO) and Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal (TAAN) have already stated that the runway problem will affect the tourism sector very badly and have urged the government to find the solution to the problem without any delay.
“As the problems in the runway not only affect international flights but also put passengers at risk, we have requested the concerned minister to renovate the runway as soon as possible,” said Amar Man Shakya, general secretary of HAN, according to Republica.
Tourist arrivals this year, already on a decline compared to the past years, might suffer even more if the makeover of the runway is not done soon. According to the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation statistics, some 545,221 tourists came to Nepal in 2011 while some 598,258 in 2012 by air ways. However, only around 282,429 tourists have visited Nepal in the first seven months of 2013 by airways.
Although initially constructed in 1967 with the target to support some 196 tons, the runway has been landing aircraft of around 300 tons in the recent years. With a number of international companies like Thai Airways, Dragon Air, Korean Air, Qatar Airways, Air Asia flying wide body aircraft to Nepal, the request by the government to limit the air carrier size might come as a major hindrance in the operation of these flights.
Although the government has been providing various alternatives to airlines companies for the reduction of weight, however, it is highly unlikely that many aircraft will be able to limit their flight weight within the government directed figure.
As many of the flights for the season are already booked, it will be also difficult to cancel the flights to the Nepal for the airlines companies.
The runway crisis has highlighted the over dependence of the country on the TIA for international flights and the need for a second international airport. However, the lack of timely government action in upgrading and improving the runway earlier remains the primary cause of the current problem. Despite knowing the problem, the lack of timely action by the government can be blamed for the current woes.