Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJP) lawmaker Pramod Kumar Sah was arrested Tuesday on charge of vandalizing the counter of Buddha Air at Janakpur Airport on Monday. He had an altercation with the airline staffers after delay of over two hours in the flight saying sick passengers had to wait for too long.
While his arrest has been lauded as a semblance of rule of law many are sympathetic with the cause of his ire and supported his rebellion against perennial delay by domestic airlines.
While the flights were delayed earlier only due to extreme weather conditions during the monsoon season and due to poor visibility owing to dense fog in the winter season, it happens round the year nowadays.
Airline operators blame lack of infrastructure including narrow airports and their capacity to handle the rising number of passengers and flights. They point that the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), that handled 1.40 million passengers in 2014, handled 2.80 million in 2018, and the number of flights rose to 95,000 from 68,000 in the past five years while the TIA's capacity has not improved in the past two years.
They claim that domestic flights have been delayed as the TIA, the main hub of domestic flights, prioritizes holding domestic flights by smaller planes over asking the big planes arriving from abroad to wait in the sky.
"The current problem has arisen as the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) has given permission for new airline companies and planes without considering capacity of the airports. The airport administration is mainly to blame," an airline operator stated.
Airline administration officials, on the other hand, claim that the flights can be better managed by optimizing even the current capacity, and point that the airline companies have always ignored request that they provide prior-information to the passengers through phone or text messages to lessen their anger. They point that the airport administration inform the airline operators at least an hour ahead about the delay and add that the operators can then inform the passengers about that.
CAAN and airport administration officials do not want to comment on permission to operate new airline companies and planes as the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation actually gives permission, and unable to cross the line ministry they merely endorse the ministry decision.
The airport administration officials mainly blame the airline operators for the delay in flights pointing that they crowd out the schedule during the day scheduling most of their flights before five in the evening even for airports like Nepalgunj, Bhairahawa, Dhangadi, Biratnagar and Simara that can operate in the night. They argue that flights for airports other than in the mountainous and hilly districts, where flights have to be operated within a small window a time, can be spread out more evenly.
They also point that airline operators sell tickets stretching their capacity to the fullest and the schedule goes haywire whenever one or more of their planes face technical problems.
Former TIA general manager Dinesh Prasad Shrestha warns that the current anger of passengers over delay in flights can exacerbate and can eventually hit the tourism sector by weakening aviation industry if not addressed immediately. He recommends that flights should be allowed only considering airport capacity, smaller planes should not be allowed to land in Kathmandu and new airline companies and planes should not be given permission.
"This rebellion against delay will take frightening proportion if flight slots continue to be provided arbitrarily. It may be directed at the airport administration, CAAN and even the government," he stated referring to lawmaker Sah's violent anger in Janakpur.
Published Date: Wednesday, Asoj 29, 2076, 12:10:00