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Nepal seeks new air routes to handle growing traffic

Trans Himalayan Air Route 2
Nepal Seeking New Air route as its air traffic has increased in recent years

KATHMANDU, JAN 21 – Nepal plans to ask India for development of Trans-Himalaya 2 airspace connecting Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Europe and three other cross-border airspace in view of the increasing air traffic demand in Nepal.

A meeting has been planned between Nepal and India that will bring together planners and the concerned stakeholders to discuss opening additional air routes.

A highly placed source at the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoTCA) said that Nepal would propose opening three cross-border airspace from Janakpur, Bhairahawa and Nepalgunj.

Similarly, for aircraft entering Nepal’s air space, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) will propose Biratnagar (in the eastern region), Bhairahawa (in the western region) and Nepalgunj (in the mid-western region).

Currently, Nepal has three incoming air routes—Simara, Kakkarbhitta from Paro in Bhutan and the Nonim air route from China. The Kathmandu-Mahendranagar-Delhi (L626) is the outgoing air route for international flights. The L626 route has been operational since November 2009. It took nearly seven years for the airway to be opened. The proposed meeting will discuss opening new airspaces to ease traffic congestion, enhancing information transmission, traffic regulations, emergency recovery of aircraft during accidents and automatic message switching system in Nepal’s aviation sector.

“The move to open cross-border airspace is directed at benefiting Nepal’s domestic airlines aspiring to serve Indian cities,” an MoTCA official said. Currently, Buddha Air flies to a number of cross-border destinations in India and plans to connect other neighboring markets.

Likewise, Trans-Himalaya 2 airspace (Hong Kong-Kunming-Guwahati-Kathmandu) which is one of the lucrative routes for Nepal, is a top priority on Nepal’s agenda for the meeting.

If the route is opened, it will be the shortest way from China and the Far East to the Middle East and Europe. The air distance from Kathmandu to Hong Kong will also be reduced. Implementation of this airspace will allow international airlines to fly over Nepali airspace, which means savings in fuel and distance for carriers flying this route and revenue for Nepal.

The route will help environment protection with less carbon emission. It will help reduce congestion of westbound traffic flows across the Bay of Bengal. “The airspace was discussed during Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai’s visit to Delhi,” said Suresh Acharya, joint secretary at the MoTCA. According to him, India was positive about opening the route. “The government has written to the Indian government and the India civil aviation authority to discuss the proposed route and is waiting for their response,” Acharya said.

According to CAAN, Nepal has proposed three air routes—Himalaya 1 (Bangkok-Kolkata-Nepalgunj-Indek in Pakistan), Himalaya 2 and Himalaya 3—at different ICAO meetings and other forums. Among them, the most beneficial route is Himalaya 2, but it requires much effort by Nepal to get India and China to agree.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has kept Himalaya 2 as a future requirement. “With regard to permission from the Chinese side for Trans-Himalaya 2 airspace, separate discussions need be held with the Chinese government,” Acharya added.

According to the stats issued by Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), international flight movement through Kathmandu has surged 17.79 percent in the first nine months of 2011. TIA handled 16,466 international flights in 2011 compared to 13,978 during the same period in 2010.

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