Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) has started preliminary work to extend airport operation time to 21 hours a day.
Talking to Republica, Raj Kumar Chhetri, general manager of TIA, said that that the airport management has started preparation to extend airport operation hours by three hours in the first phase.
The only international airport in the country took the initiative after Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Rabindra Adhikari, said that the airport should operate round the clock to reduce air traffic congestion.
TIA is currently in operation for 18 hours - 6 am to 12 midnight.
“In the first phase, we will bring the airport into operation till 3 am. Gradually we will make the airport operational round the clock,” he added. “Although it is possible to operate the airport round the clock immediately, we need to first look into some technical issues.”
Chhetri also said that the airport management has already started discussions with other stakeholders like security agencies and Department of Immigration (DoI) for extending operation hours by 3 hours till 3 am.
“Operation of the airport for 24 hours in a day will significantly reduce air traffic congestion at TIA. Also, airliners won't have to hold in the sky for long waiting for their turn to land,” he said, adding, “It will also solve aircraft parking and many other problems.”
Chhetri also claimed that the ongoing expansion work will help to increase capacity of TIA.
Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) is implementing TIA Terminal Expansion Project with an investment of US$ 92 million. Asian Development Bank (ADB) has lent $80 million to CAAN for the purpose, while the government is investing $12 million.
According to My Republica, the project includes work like terminal building expansion, construction of drainage the perimeter and entry and underway. Likewise, other works in the package are adding parking slots for four more aircraft, expanding helipad and expanding vehicle parking area.
“We can currently accommodate 200 cars in our parking areas. But the under-construction parking area can accommodate 1,600 vehicles," Chhetri added. “Within a year, you can see significant changes in operation and services at TIA.”
After the expansion, TIA terminal will have the capacity to handle 2,500 passengers per hour. Currently, its capacity is only 1,300 passengers per hour.
As there are few baggage belts, check-in desks and terminal gates, air passengers have no option but to wait in long queues. Realizing this very fact, CAAN took the initiative to add more facilities by expanding the terminal building, Chhetri added.
After expansion, terminal building will have six additional baggage belts on top of existing four. Similarly, there will be more immigration counters and check-in desk which will ease the immigration process at the airport, said Chhetri.