TIA to operate 21 hours a day from May 21, 2018

Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) plans to remain open for 21 hours a day to handle a growth in flights and provide incentives to air traffic controllers (ATCs) and other staff as compensation for the increased workload.

The new schedule will be implemented from May 21, and airport authorities have proposed asking employees to work an hour extra daily as TIA suffers from a shortage of experienced manpower. Currently, the airport operates for 18 hours 30 minutes daily.Traffic congestion is also severe on the ground due to a limited number of parking bays. Experts said that TIA had turned into a ‘roll and hold’ airport as its existing infrastructure has not been able to cope with the rising travel demand.
During the tourist season, March-May and September-November, TIA handles more than 500 flights daily, 75 percent of them domestic flights. The sole reason behind the congestion at TIA during the tourist season is Lukla flights. And if a flight to Lukla, the gateway to Everest, is disrupted on any particular day due to weather, its rescheduling will create a cascading effect on all flights.

For example, Lukla witnessed a record 130 flights (take-off and landing) on a day last April. In such a situation, if a flight is disrupted due to bad weather in Lukla, its rescheduling will create massive chaos at TIA, hampering smooth operation of international flights.

TIA’s traffic statistics show that Lukla airport in the Himalaya is the third busiest airport in Nepal after TIA and Pokhara. Lukla airport, which has a 527-metre runway, is listed among the Most Extreme Airports by the History Channel.
This is not the first time that the government has announced keeping TIA open longer. In 2011, when the country observed Nepal Tourism Year, the government had decided to operate TIA 24 hours a day. However, the plan fell apart after its sole runway started to crumble. Repeated occurrences of cracks on the runway at the country’s sole international aerial gateway have been affecting smooth operation of aircraft since 2011. Scores of flights have been diverted or delayed in recent years due to problems in the runway. Cracks were reported occasionally in 2012.

The problem worsened in 2013, forcing the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) to take a harsh decision to bar aircraft weighing more than 196 tonnes from landing at TIA. The restriction is still in place.
Source: The Kathmandu Post

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