Kathmandu: Following the beginning of rehabilitation works at Nepal’s sole international airport, direct flights to Lukla — gateway to world’s highest peak Mt Everest — have been halted from Monday, authorities confirmed.
Since Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) will be closed for 10 hours a day for three months starting from April 1, trekkers and climbers have to travel to Manthali Airport of Ramechhap district to take flights to Lukla.
“The airport will be closed in between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. local time every day for the runway rehabilitation and expansion works. We have already asked all the airline companies to conduct the flights accordingly,” Raj Kumar Chhetri, General Manager at TIA, said.
This is the first time that TIA is going for the rehabilitation works of runway after its construction in 1975. According to the airport official, the project is being handled by the Chinese company China National Aero-technology International Engineering Corporation.
Since April-May is the peak climbing season in the Himalayan country, the runway expansion drive will mostly impact the spring expeditions, according to the trekking and expedition companies.
In the spring season, domestic airline companies used to conduct over 50 flights to Lukla, known as Tenzing Hillary airport, every day. It is the nearest airport to the world’s highest peak, featuring vibrant terrains and harsh weather patterns. Due to the extreme wind pressure, all the to and from flights used to be operated only in the morning time.
Though airport authorities have regarded Manthali airport as an alternative to Lukla airport, there are no passenger flights from Kathmandu to Manthali, which is located some five hours drive away from the capital city.
Since there are no good infrastructures and hotels available in Manthali, trekking and expedition companies are planning to take their passengers in a night drive to attend the early morning flight.