Nepali Times



Long gone are the days of booking travel on weekly outbound flights.

International aircraft arrivals increased by 8.41 per cent and domestic aircraft arrivals by 19.72 per cent in the first nine months of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008. Currently, 25 international airlines operate 35 flights a day and there are eight domestic airlines and five choppers. Kingfisher and Alpine Air will soon join that fleet and three other foreign airlines hope to follow suit.

Yet there have been no major additions to infrastructure. "Our airport doesn't meet the requirements for an international airport, so it is very difficult to accommodate all the tourists," says Amar Bahadur Shakya of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN).

There is one runway at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), no arrow bridge to connect docked planes directly to the terminal, and seven internal bays- when 23-25 are necessary- for just three wide-body and four narrow-body aircraft. Aggravating the air traffic congestion is the fact that most airlines prefer the 10am-5pm time slot, largely because Nepal's terrain makes flying at night dangerous. Inevitably, there have been flight delays.

Congestion within the airport has also increased. The number of international passengers increased by 9.63 per cent and domestic passengers by 35.15 per cent in the first 10 months of 2009, compared to the year before. Although the airport was designed for only 1000 passengers daily, the actual turnover today is close to 2000. Likewise, the departure lounge was designed for 350 but sees up to 1000 passengers daily. Congestion at the air terminal may even have contributed to the death of a Korean woman, of a heart attack, three weeks ago.

Such problems were anticipated long ago, but officials have been slow to respond. A master plan drafted in 1996 was never executed. But there is more movement now. The airport will operate 24 hours a day, in light of Visit Nepal Year 2010, and offer discounts to airlines that operate outside of the 10am-5pm slot. A Visual Flight Rules system will be installed, along with improved lighting on the central runway, to make night-flying safer.The domestic terminal will be refurbished and an area will be set aside for choppers.

There will also be changes to airport infrastructure to make room for more passengers. TIA's Managing Director Dinesh Prasad Shrestha says, "With assistance from the Asian Development Bank, TIA will be realigning the immigration and hand baggage checking areas to accommodate more passengers waiting to board. The waiting lounge will be expanded as well." It is hoped these projects will be completed within two years.

But a total overhaul of the Air Traffic Management (ATM) system may be necessary further down the line. Most airports around the world use analog technology to enable the surveillance, supervision and navigation of air traffic. However, the volume such technology can handle is nearing saturation point in Nepal, leading to a rise in the risk of accidents. "We must digitise ATM and use satellites, which have a wider, bird's eye view of air traffic, have a much higher saturation point, and could eliminate the mistakes that analog technology causes," says ATM expert Niraj Aryal.

Nepal stands to gain more from such changes than other countries because its geography and weather?- which cause most domestic air crashes- make analog technology unreliable. Though ATM authorities are looking into this possibility, it will require huge investments and careful coordination with foreign governments.

Perhaps we're better off getting the basics right first.

TIA or Terribly Inept Airport- FROM East-West with Kunda Dixit

1. Raghu
Out of the money given my ADB, half of it will go to TIA offical's pocket. The redevelopment will be a half arse project like everything else in Nepal. Tourists come to Nepal with such a high expections but as soon as they land on the airport reality bites.

2. KiranL
I waited one hour outside, one hour at the xray and barely made it to the plane. the reason was that the Indians had a security alert.

3. Singapore
Some suggestions (in light of the Visit Nepal 2011) 1. Have all TIA staff wear distinctively crisp uniform everyday. Uniform sends a signal of professionalism. 2. Hire smart-looking young men and women. Nepal is full of such young people, looking for jobs. Dhaka-topi wearing middle-aged bureaucrats with bellies that look like they've hidden vollyballs there are not best people to deal courteously with all incoming or outgoing passengers 3. Keep all the bathrooms super-clean: make the ladies' toilets infant-friendly too. 4. The entire airport looks and feels like a seedy Greyhound bus terminal that has seen its better days. Improve the look (sweep off those cobwebs, etc) to make it resemble a welcoming hotel lobby of some sorts. 5. Provide free wi-fi. Install many power ports for people to use laptops, etc. 6. Turn off the damn TV in the final waiting hall. Nobody wants to watch screaming Bollywood movies when waiting for their plane. 7. The baggage carousal is a disgrace: fix it. 8. Have an Information Booth in a visible spot, and put some smart men and women there to answer questions and to direct lost or confused passengers. 9. Nepali minorities (ie. Tamangs, Sherpa, Madhesis, etc) seem to bear the brunt of most stupid questionings done by the immigration officials. Recruit and retain a diverse set of competent staff to reflect TIA as a mini-Nepal. 10. Have a well-functioning Corruption Hot Line that people can call when/if they are asked for a bribe. Make the hotline number visible to all. 11. Put in several free land phones that work, and which get cut off after every 3 mins (so as to cut down on the lenegth of the queue for calls). 12. Ban smoking everywhere inside and around TIA.

4. suresh
oh my god that place is hell i dont know how they speaak to the foreigner but when they talk to we nepali and especially student i feel like they are the villain from the hindi b grade movies . why tia hire such a impolite polite and uncivilised people when we have so many talented youngster who are polite and i think they better know how to dress up properly and how to talk to people , those working their feel like they are the very important people because they work in international airport. and one important suggestion please the corruption is so much they never wanna give you the change back. one thing they can do is not too let them have pocket in shirt and paint.and security when i was returning from nepal this time the guy in front of mr have scissor in his bag but the x ray machine dint i dentify in nepal but in singapore the lady in the sec urity was so surprised that he have scissor and know body knew in nepal . though he din have any bad intention but was so embarrassing to say i m nepali too. and the security guard . cant TIA have one security person these police people dont know how to speak to nepal. one cop ask me even thogh he knew i m a student in veryrude way "do u have any gun or bomb" and i went to his officer and complain because i felt bad . i think everybody knows how hard it is to leave your home and go away and your own people humiliate you in your airport. but that officer dint say a word even dint apologise. i think everybody who passes through TIA have same bad and sad story. that is certainly a hell for us.

5. subodh
article on a similar topic.. nepal could take a lesson from Koh Samui airport in thailand

6. ramesh
TIA is such a national embarrassment!!!!!...y we always have these kind of frustrating whole generation will never get a chance to excited about our country...coz these ppl will never let us know whatever good things happening in this country....n of course , there r hopeless ppl who might judge that i cud b blind....but still, let us hope for our better future even at this harsh moment of history!!!

7. Sujan
OMG, Airport...... Need to improve for comfortable tourism.... ChairFAN of Potala Airways..... Flying without VISA, Closing eyes and flying inside.... Flying is safe inside.... Airplanes........ airplanes...... airplanes......

8. SN
Good suggestions Singapore. Re: ADB support, can Nepal ever do anything on its own? Maybe ADB should use Singapore's suggestions as conditions for Nepal government to get the grant!

9. Luba
Excellent article on the situation at the airport. On my last visit in Oct. the line up for a visa was miles long, and it was a similar story as with the security. The 30 day visa line was pretty short and when the guy was finished, he just stared blankly into the space and didn't move. Somebody must have said something, so eventually he slowly moved over to the other table to help. Just clueless in la-la land. The stench in the departure area is beyond me. Nobody makes any effort even just to close the door to the toilets, that wouldn't be that complicated. Installing a mechanism on the door that closes it automatically shouldn't be difficult. Of course, having some ventilation and cleaning the toilets would work, too. Luba Svrcina

10. May
Great tips, Singapore, and quite do-able. We should just sub-contract the management of the airport to Singapore, and while we are at it, maybe even the country...

11. Portlander
Good suggestions by Singapore. Who ever is the lead on making improvements to the TIA needs to hear Singapore's comment. I hope NepaliTimes passes the comments to the appropriate person.

If they appoint me, the head of TIA... I would be willing to gain the TRUST of every single person (no matter their race, region or where they come from) and filter the good suggestions and then make your move. 

For sure TIA have plenty of room for improvement.  And with VIST NEPAL 2011 coming, the person better do his JOB ( I know it is hard in Nepal to get stuff done, but with with so many improvement to be completed, the goal at least should be to get some major ones completed). 

Nepali Times to write up a follow up article to see if there were any improvements made.

12. kanaru

yep sympathize with suresh we suffer similar problem in latinamerica they steal as much they can.

In peru when i was young they took money for a visa paper I did not know i should have had, then angrily I paid the ' solution money' then the collegue woman followed rapidly asking me ' how much he took'.

Corrpution has to be beaten. But i am positive the new constitution will do it. Also a waiting room will be good in case bandha or delay last bandha i had to wait nowhere, could not go up a friend sms- d go to the restaurant no i mean the one outside. Bored to go outside again survived a day on animal crackers. I love Nepal 2010?

But a big fancy airport is not solution to all nightmares though we want to beef up security like the entire world not only indjuns.

13. Sunil Sakya
Its high time Nepal outsource the mangement to a world class operator. It is beyond the capacity of this government to manage the present airport and its increasing demand in terms of quantity and quality. Its just grown too big. If hotels in Nepal, and airport in India can outsource management of the airport, why can't the government outsource management of our only airport.  I don't think we meet even meet the minimum standards set by ICAO for the international airport. We should seriously start thinking from that perspective.

14. Canada

Sadly, with three visits in five years, I have seen TIA deteriorate.  The immigration lines, queue jumping, and long processing times only add to frustrations after long international flights.  Then the baggage claim followed by the circus of taxis and  the baggage "helpers" can be an unpleasant introduction to the city.  It is the gateway to Nepal - sure a new airport won't solve the ills of the country, and I doubt there is money or political will to invest in it anyway - but first impressions count.  As for the departure process - lets not even go there.  Many of us in the west eagerly await the day when Nepal can stand tall with decent governance and sufficient economic drivers to lessen the reliance on aid.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)