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Preventing another setback, Tribhuvan Airport will offer short window for Nepal Airlines flight to Japan

- SANGAM PRASAIN, Kathmandu

Jul 14, 2019-

Nepal’s civil aviation body will briefly open the country’s only international airport exclusively for Nepal Airlines’ new flight to Osaka, bypassing its own time-sensitive “notice to airmen” period during which the crucial second-phase of taxiway construction will be ongoing.

Tribhuvan International Airport had completed renovation works on the runway on June 30 and is currently in operation for 21 hours daily. But when the taxiway reconstruction begins on September 1, the airport will once again have to be closed for seven hours every day, from 11:30pm to 6:30am, until December 31—its targeted completion day.

However, civil aviation officials said they have reached a decision to open the airport for 3o minutes within the shutdown window to allow the Nepal Airlines flight to take off for Osaka.

 “Nepal Airlines is resuming its flight to Japan after more than a decade, and we did not want to cause a setback,” said Rajan Pokhrel, director-general of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal. “So we decided to make an exception for the national flag carrier.”

Pokhrel, however, was quick to admit that making an exception for the airline would hamper the construction of the taxiway, affecting at least an hour’s work daily.

 “The workers will leave the construction site for 15 minutes prior to take off and come back to the site 15 minutes after the take-off,” he said. Airport officials have asked the contractor to review their construction timeline accordingly.

Nepal Airlines had originally considered operating flights to Kansai International Airport from July 4, but it was forced to postpone its re-launch until August 29 because of poor bookings.

The Osaka flight is scheduled to depart from Kathmandu at 2:30am and arrive in Osaka at 11:55am local time. The return flight, which takes seven hours, will leave Osaka at 1:55pm local time and land in Kathmandu at 6:00pm.

During the final week of June, airport officials had invited representatives of all international airlines to brief them on the plans for the construction of the taxiway and said that it would issue the notice soon.

“There were all representatives, including those from Nepal Airlines, at the meeting but no one objected to the airport’s plan,” said one representative from an airline who was present at the meeting. The representative asked to remain anonymous because he didn’t want to be seen as criticising his competitor. “After a few days, airlines officials finally realised that the construction of the taxiway would clash with its scheduled flight to Japan.”

Two weeks ago, Nepal Airlines officials called the Civil Aviation Authority and requested to make an exception for them, allowing 30 minutes for take-off at 2:30am by halting construction works.

 In a recent interview with the Post, Nepal Airlines Executive Chairman Madan Kharel had said they had to request for an exception because the ground handling agency at Osaka’s Kansai airport could not change its allocated time.

 In June, Tribhuvan International Airport was closed for 10 hours daily to allow construction crews to work on the runway. The 3,050-metre runway has now been refurbished and covered with a new layer of asphalt. The renovation of the runway started during the middle of the country’s spring tourist season. The renovation of the taxiway has been planned for autumn, also a peak tourist season in the country.

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Published: 15-07-2019 06:30

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