2022 is going to be a historic year for Nepal's aviation industry. The much-awaited operations of Gautam Buddha International Airport and Pokhara Regional International Airport are slated to begin this year. Now passengers heading to Lumbini or Pokhara can fly directly to these cities without having to fly to Kathmandu.
With only one international airport in the country, ie, Tribhuvan International Airport, Nepal has long struggled with maintaining a proper international air connectivity. The international airport with a 3350m runway can only accommodate up to 15 aircraft, including three wide-body aircraft. The sole international airport of this Himalayan nation has received criticisms from international fliers citing the airport as being outdated and overcrowded. Air traffic congestion and weather-related difficulties are two issues that the airport has to deal with frequently. TIA at present connects Nepal with 17 countries and 40 destinations.
With the opening of Gautam Buddha International Airport in Bhairahwa and the Pokhara International Airport in Pokhara, air traffic congestion at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) is expected to reduce significantly. Air passengers now also have the option to fly to these destinations directly without having to stop at Kathmandu.
Compared to TIA both these airports have state-of-the-art infrastructure and modern cutting edge design. They are also equipped with passenger boarding bridge or sky bridge which will make boarding and exiting from the aircraft easier. Though TIA has been renovated and modernized in the past few years, it lacks an aerobridge which is an essential feature of modern airports.
Gautam Buddha International Airport – Connecting Lord Buddha's Birthplace to the World
The new Gautam Buddha International Airport located in Bhairahwa will formally come into operation from May 16, 2022. The date which commemorates the birth anniversary of Lord Buddha or Buddha Jayanti has been chosen, as the airport connects the world with Lord Buddha's birthplace Lumbini. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the town of Lumbini is located at a distance of about 18 kilometers from Gautam Buddha International Airport.
Built at a cost of NPR 6.82 billion, the construction of the airport began in 2015 and was slated for completion by 2017. However, the earthquake of 2015, economic blockade, and the recent Covid-19 pandemic led to delays in construction. Now the international airport is completed and final testing of the airport's communication and navigation system is underway. A team of experts from Thailand and the USA is currently testing the airport's technical system. The airport has been built with grants received from the Asian Development Bank. Northwest Civil Aviation Construction Group, a Chinese company was responsible for the construction of the international airport.
The airport, covering an area of 10,500 ropanis, has a runway measuring 3000m long and 45m wide. The aircraft parking apron can accommodate up to five aircraft. Any aircraft that can land at Tribhuvan International Airport (from Boeing 777-200 series to Airbus 330), can fly into Gautam Buddha International Airport. Fitted with better equipment at the runway and taxiway, the airport is expected to perform better than TIA technically. The airport can serve up to 400 passengers per hour.
Since sunlight is abundant in the Terai region, the airport authorities have decided to use solar energy to power the airport. Gautam Buddha International Airport will be the second international airport in the world to rely on solar power once it comes into operation.
Pokhara Regional International Airport – A boon for tourists on the Annapurna Trail
Pokhara being one of Nepal's popular tourist destinations and the starting point of treks leading to the Annapurna Region, needed an international airport. The foundation stone of Pokhara Regional International Airport was laid in April 2016 by the then Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli. A Chinese engineering firm CAMC won the contract to build the airport and work started at the site earmarked for the international airport in 2017. The government of Nepal procured a loan amounting to USD 215.96 million from EXIM Bank of China to fund this project.
While the project was slated to be completed by 2021, lockdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic delayed the project. Though the construction of the airport is almost complete, it will take some time for the airport to be operational as the equipment, communication and safety features of the airport have to be fully tested before commercial operations commence. As per media reports, Pokhara International Airport will come into operation probably by mid-2022. The airport will connect the city of Pokhara with South Asian and South-East Asian destinations.
Located in Chinne Danda, about 3km from the main city, the international airport covers an area of nearly 4000 ropanis. The airport's runway is 2500m long and 45m wide. Medium range aircraft like Airbus A320 and Boeing 737-757 can easily cruise into the airport. The parking apron has the space to park 11 aircraft. The airport has three parking bays for A320 jets with aerobridge facility and five parking bays for ATR aircraft. Pokhara Regional International Airport terminal has the capacity to serve 600 passengers per hour. A separate terminal and parking bay have been allocated for domestic flights.
Expedition Himalaya to introduce New Tour Packages
The tourism industry which has suffered huge losses due to the pandemic is hopeful that 2022 will be a fruitful year. The news of Nepal finally operating two more international airports has been received with joy and excitement by tourism stakeholders and entrepreneurs. The operation of these two international airports is expected to boost tourism, create job opportunities, and develop the local infrastructure and economy.
Expedition Himalaya will soon be offering pilgrimage packages for Buddhist pilgrims who want to visit all the major Buddhist religious sites in Nepal. Also on offer will be a range of exciting and fun-filled multi-activity tours for families and couples. Apart from the mountains, Nepal is covered by a dense tropical jungle in the south. The humid jungles of Terai are wildlife and bird-watching hotspots.
In 2022 Expedition Himalaya hopes to offer a three-sixty degree travel experience to its clients. Not only mountain adventures, now you can also enjoy a diverse travel experience with us. Visit traditional villages, explore national parks and wildlife reserves or take a spiritual journey to some of Nepal's sacred sites – ask us and we will take you there.