Tribhuvan International Airport (KTM) in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital, serves as the world’s gateway to Nepal. Despite its important purpose, this airport is only operating 18 hours and 30 minutes per day due to terrain surroundings and a lack of equipment. Kathmandu has faced numerous recent incidents, including the US-Bangla crash on March 12, 2018, a Malindo Air 737 sliding off the runway at night, and more. Due in part to these incidents, the EU has banned all airlines from Nepal to enter EU airspace, which prevents flights based in Nepal from landing in many important European countries.
The Lukla flights that connect Kathmandu to Everest are one reason as to why Tribhuvan International is very congested during the peak season.
However, KTM has been thrown an important lifeline of sorts. On the 22 May, according to the Jakarta Post, Tribhuvan International General Manager Raj Kumar Chettri was quoted by The Kathmandu Post as saying that the airport is ready to remain open 21 hours a day. This move is largely due to a sharp growth in air passenger traffic. Due to KTM’s growing traffic, multiple planes are often required to hold before space is made for them at the airport. In order to alleviate pressure on the airport, authorities have expanded KTM’s service by 2 hours and 30 minutes.
For this extension, the airport requires a timing change for airport personnel. The customs office, airport police, and other security agencies were said to have agreed to the new shift duration.
“The new schedule will be formally inaugurated on Monday,” said Chettri, “each shift will be lengthened by one hour.”
Meanwhile, the airport plans to hire more air traffic controllers in the coming days as an addition to the 72 controllers, who work in three shifts.
Airlines are taking advantage of the announcement by adding more flights, as the airport is now allowing slots after midnight. Qatar Airways, for example, is issuing a flight at 01:00. The expansion also allows airlines to spread out their flights. Before this change, the traffic at Kathmandu International between 13:00 and 18:00 has been messy and dangerous, and a miscommunication or a navigation error could end up in a disastrous crash with airport delays. Adding more service time every day will allow some flights that regularly arrive at this time to come in later, making travel times quicker and reducing congestion.
Overall, KTM reportedly handles more than 500 flights daily, including domestic flights that account for 75 percent of all flights during the holiday season in March and May and between September and November.
Featured image from Wikimedia Commons