Cheap tickets drive domestic passenger traffic growth in Nepal

KATHMANDU (The Kathmandu Post/ANN) – Domestic passenger traffic growth remained robust in the first half of this year due to cheap tickets despite the disruption to flight schedules caused by runway maintenance at Tribhuvan International Airport.

According to airport officials, domestic flights carried 1.48 million travellers in the first six months of 2019, recording a 12.35 per cent year-on-year growth.

Flight movement dropped 5.66 per cent to 43,847 flights in the first six months of 2019 as most leading airlines inducted larger aircraft into their fleets to handle growing passenger demand, airline officials said. The Nepali skies witnessed an average of 244 flights daily.

All domestic airlines except Buddha Air, Yeti Airlines and Shree Airlines flew fewer passengers.

Spokesperson for the Airline Operators Association of Nepal Ghanshyam Acharya said that most airlines witnessed double-digit passenger growth due to strong tourist movement led by a large number of Everest climbers and trekkers. “This year, due to the runway repair work at Tribhuvan International Airport, all short take-off and landing aircraft flying the Lukla route had to operate out of Manthali.

A plane prepares to land on a dirt runway in Ilam, Nepal. – THE KATHMANDU POST/ANN

“We have estimated that all short take-off and landing aircraft witnessed an 18-20 per cent growth in passenger traffic compared to last year. However, the figure has not been included in the passenger movement,” said Acharya. “As airlines shifted to Manthali, flight movement dropped at Kathmandu airport.”

The key reason for passenger growth on trunk routes is cheaper airfare, he said. “Competition among domestic airlines has become fierce after the entry of Shree Airlines with a fleet of jet planes in 2017.”

“There is a big airfare competition going on, and it has benefitted passengers. More and more people today are flying instead of travelling overland because airfares have become cheaper, and this market dynamics could continue in the coming days,” said Acharya. For example, a traveller can fly from Kathmandu to Bhadrapur for just Rs3,000 while a bus trip would cost Rs1,700 to Rs1,800.

Ticket prices fluctuate with the season. Two months from now, airlines will be charging the full fare due to festive demand. A ticket on the Kathmandu-Bhadrapur flight could cost at least Rs6,000.