Saturday Aug 13, 2022
Saturday Aug 13, 2022
Pukar Bhandari
2021-02-08 13:04:00

Despite dire tourism scenario domestic aviation sector flying high

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the global as well as domestic tourism industry hard. Hotels and tour agencies are still in a dire situation. However, the domestic aviation sector has been performing pretty well with the number of domestic passengers steadily rising over the past few weeks. Every day a huge number of travellers can be seen at the domestic terminal of the Tribhuvan International Airport. 

Just a few weeks ago Buddha Air added a new ATR-72-500 aircraft to its fleet and plans to add another within three months. It has served 375,000 passengers in the last three months after the government lifted its ban on domestic flights on September 21. This clearly shows that domestic aviation industry has been able to come out of the rut that it had witnessed during the lockdown. Marketing and Sales Director of Budhha Air, Rupesh Joshi, informed that the number of passengers has increased after the lockdown was lifted and the company has taken this as an opportunity to add new aircraft.

He clarified that Buddha Air has not added any new destination and the new aircraft will be used to increase the frequency of flights to the current destinations. Joshi further mentioned that the company has been providing regular flight services and mountain flights at subsidised rates due to the decline in price of aviation turbine fuel (ATF).

However, Joshi is quick to point out that before resuming flights Buddha Air first implemented the safety protocols set by the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal and trained all the staff accordingly. “There hasn't been any case of any passenger or employee being infected with the virus while flying with us,” he states, adding that till date their slogan has been ‘Sankraman rahit udanko sahayatri’ which the company is planning to change to ‘Samaya yatruko, udaan hamro’.

At present, Buddha Air has been conducting 70 flights daily and has a 95% occupancy rate. “We plan to increase the number of flights to 100 per day,” shares Joshi. He also says that they did not lay off any of the 1,100 staff during the lockdown but did deduct salaries. 

Likewise, Sudarshan Bartaula, spokesperson for Yeti Airlines, says they have more than 90% occupancy at the moment. “We have been following the safety protocols very strictly,” he says, adding that face masks, visors, disinfection of the planes and baggage are compulsory now,” Bartaula informs that they have stopped a few services including use of restrooms in the flights, catering, cabin movement and the airline has also restricted pets in the flights. “We have also reduced our fares by up to 40%,” he adds.

Bartaula further states that the airline companies can definitely survive with only domestic travellers but it will be difficult to expand. “To further progress we need to have international passengers,” he adds. He informed that the company did not lay off any staff during the lockdown and managed the situation by slashing operational costs. “What we are doing is that we have given our staff the opportunity to work for a certain number of weeks in a month or some work for a few numbers of months depending on the work and the situation,” Bartaula shares.

He says that if there are not many international travellers soon then the airline companies will sustain but not be able to make profit. “Foreign passengers pay more compared to domestic travellers and that is where we earn our profits,” he added. 

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