Nepal Airlines, the national carrier of Nepal, has issued a press release stating that it will operate its maiden flight to Gautam Buddha International Airport (GBIA) with an Airbus A320. The public carrier will operate its first commercial flight to Bhairahawa on May 16.
As Gautam Buddha International Airport is ready to welcome airlines after a decade of preparation, Nepal Airlines will take commercial takeoff from the new airport on May 16 as a regular promotional GBIA flight. According to the press release, the airline will operate its A320 narrow-body aircraft in the Kathmandu-Bhairahawa sector.
The flight is scheduled as:
Flight from Kathmandu to Bhairahawa (KTM-BWA): 06:00
Flight from Bhairahawa to Kathmandu (BWA-KTM): 08:00
Flight 1731 will operate KTM-BWA services, while flight 1732 will begin the return trip.
Where to buy tickets?
Passengers can purchase KTM-BWA-KTM domestic flight tickets from Nepal Airlines website www.nepalairlines.com.np or Nepalairlines Playstore mobile app (via download). Tickets can be purchased at the ticket counter at the Company’s registered office or at the nearest travel agency. Fares are available on the basis of two codes: NOO27 will cost the full NPR fare of 7040, while YPBW3 charges Rs. 4510 for the flight.
To honor the passengers participating in this inaugural ceremony, Nepal Airlines will present them with a historic badge.
Nepal Airlines’ fleet includes the two most awarded aircraft in Nepalese aviation history, the A320-200. Named Sagarmatha (which translates to Mount Everest) and Lumbini (Buddhist pilgrimage site), the aircraft’s total seating capacity is 158 passengers (8 in business class and 150 in economy class). Nepal Airlines received its two narrow-body aircraft in 2015.
Nepal’s second international airport, Gautam Buddha International Airport, is the gateway to the international pilgrimage destination of Lumbini, spread over 533 hectares. Scheduled to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba on May 16, the anniversary of the birth of Gautam Buddha, the airport requires a lot of marketing effort. Nepal Airlines will operate the KTM-BWA flight to promote the new airport, which is expected to be the first port of entry to Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautam Buddha and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Apart from Nepal Airlines, Jazeera Airways will also operate a direct Bhairahawa-Kuwait flight by Airbus A320 on the same day. The Kuwaiti airline has received permission to operate three weekly flights (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) at the newly constructed GBIA airport. Nepalese civil aviation regulator CAAN (Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal) has already approved Jazeera Airways’ tentative international summer schedule at GBIA airport, effective from May 15 to October 29, 2022.
The national pride project, Gautam Buddha International Airport, is one of the most sustainable construction projects in Nepal which spanned almost a decade and cost a total of almost Rs 40 billion. Scheduled to be completed in 2017, the project encountered multiple obstacles resulting in the work being halted. The airport is finally ready to serve airlines as an alternative international air travel point for Nepal, with the opening ceremony on May 16. Although the inauguration date is near, there has been no significant marketing or promotional campaign deployed to accommodate requests for flight slots from foreign airlines. The airport is considering establishing direct air services with countries like India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Myanmar to attract Buddhist pilgrims, but the lack of promotional activities indicates otherwise. While Japan Airlines of Myanmar and Sri Lanka reportedly made informal promises for the airport, the government has stopped following through on those promises.
More than construction, it is crucial to maintain the financial viability of the airport, and this depends on the availability of airlines to use the services. Airline rebates, subsidies such as waiving landing and parking fees for a certain period of time, etc., can help with the initial set-up of the airport and encourage airlines to launch services .
About Gautam Buddha International Airport
Gautam Buddha International Airport or Bhairahawa Airport is the second international airport upgraded to serve as an alternative to Tribhuvan International Airport and provide direct flight connections for international pilgrims to Lumbini. The airport facility includes a 15,169 square meter terminal and a 3,000 m runway to accommodate large aircraft. Located in south-central Nepal, the airport enjoys an ideal geographical location to become a labor market hub without any climatic problems. The airport can help rejuvenate the tourism industry and boost economic activities in Lumbini Province.