Domestic flights in the country are still short of passengers. Nepali airline operators suspect prospective passengers might not be ready to travel in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. In previous years, Dashain bookings were done at least a month in advance but now there are only a few enquiries and not many passengers. There is the case with under two weeks to the start of the festival.
Regular domestic flights across the country only began on September 20 after six months of suspension. In the 15 days since daily flights resumed, there has been an occupancy rate of around 85 percent of capacity. Right now, only a quarter of all regular flights have resumed. Occupancy is said to be increasing on the trunk routes (flight to the lowlands) rather than the stall routes (high altitude areas). There are more cargo than passenger flights on stall routes.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal currently allows about 80 daily flights from airlines such as Buddha, Yeti, Simrik, Shree, Sita, Tara, Summit, and Nepal Airlines. Buddha and Yeti Airlines have been flying on the trunk routes while Sita, Tara, Summit and Nepal Airlines have been plying the stall routes. Simrik Airlines informs that it will start two daily flights to Pokhara alone from October 15.
According to CAAN’s flight schedule, Buddha Air gets to fly 30 flights a day. At present, it has around 85 percent flight occupancy, spokesperson and marketing manager for the airlines Rupesh Joshi informs.
Even now, bookings are made only one day before the flight, Joshi informs, adding that nothing can be said for Dashain yet. “There may be some excitement in passengers from Ghatasthapana [October 17]. If passenger pressure decreases, airfares may reduce, but if the pressure increases, the current fares remain. But we have no plans targeting Dashain yet,” says Joshi.
The occupancy of Yeti Airlines is currently around 90 percent, informs Sudarshan Bartaula, flight safety chief and spokesperson. Yeti Airlines, which is flying about 18 flights a day on trunk routes, has not started bookings for Dashain. “We have not introduced cheap fares for Dashain as yet. We are in a wait-and-see mode. It is impossible to foresee passenger pressure in Dashain,” says Bartaula.
Bartaula attributes lack of booking to the common mentality that seats will be easily available till the last moment. Stating that flights are currently being operated at cheaper rates, Bartaula adds the airlines are struggling to raise operating expenses. He adds that there is no possibility of further reducing fares. Even though there are no advance bookings, Yeti Airlines hopes daily flights will be filled by Dashain.