Lukla airport likely to see 50 pc aircraft drop this season

Lukla airport, file photo
Lukla airport, file photo.

KATHAMNDU, Nepal- The Lukla airport, which is one of the most busiest airports  in Nepal, operating  more than 70-80 flights during the Oct-Nov period, is likely to see a 50 percent drop in aircraft traffic this season, airline operators and travel agencies said.

One of most extreme and dangerous airport in the world, the airport observes 30-32 flights on each day, roughly half of what Lukla witnessed in 2011.

Huge shortage of aircraft coupled with adverse condition has put extreme pressure on airlines to drop the flights in Lukla frequently, which has affected hundreds of foreigners and their mission in Lukla.

For instance, an Italian EVK2CNR-Cobat mission which was aiming to change the solar panel installed at Pyramid Laboratory Observatory, located at the height of 5050 meter in Khumbu region, has left for Lukla Wednesday morning, after the frequent cancel of the flights.

The mission which had scheduled to fly to Lukla on Monday only flew to Lukla today due to flights’ defer triggered by bad weather condition.

On Tuesday, due to bad weather conditions, not a single flight was allowed in the sector. Tara air cancelled 21 flights in the sector on Monday alone.

Hundreds of tourists flock to trek the foothill of the roof of the world during the October-November period. The Tourism Ministry figure shows that there were 0.1 million foreign trekkers last year, of which the Everest region received 36,000 of them.

Lukla airport, situated at an altitude of 2,843 metres, and earned the reputation as one of the most dangerous airports in the world can only operate  special short take-off and landing (STOL) aircraft, like the Twin Otter or Dornier.

Travel agencies have also complained that shortage of aircraft is likely to hit the tourist movement in the Everest region.  With scores of domestic airlines stopped their operation for the last 18 months, the impact has clearly been seen on Lukla Airport, the gateway to Mt Everest.

Frequent crashes and financial woes coupled with frequent bad weather forced scores of airlines out of service. For instance, Agni airlines which handled 12-14 flights daily, has been grounded since November last year.

Currently Sita Air operates a single aircraft while one of its two aircrafts crashed in Kathmandu in September last year. Sita, which has been operating its service in the western region of Nepal, has also started flights to the Lukla sector following the tourist demand.

Nepal Airlines is also limited to a single aircraft, and does not operate in the sector presently. Single-engine operator Makalu Air has also been conducting chartered flights with its two aircraft in the sector.

Tara Air is said to be entertaining a monopoly on the Kathmandu-Lukla route at present. It currently operates the sector with four aircraft.


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