Kathmandu : Tribhuvan International Airport, the country’s sole international airport with a single runway, now faces critical shortage of parking bays for international flights. According to airline operators, they have to struggle to find a place to park the aircraft in the very limited parking area at TIA. This situation has often resulted in congestion and forced aircraft to circle for hours. According to Thakur, TIA currently has only nine parking spaces for international commercial flights, cargo and chartered planes. “The first three bays are approved for wide body aircraft and the rest for narrow body planes,” he said. Interestingly, the fourth parking bay available in the international apron has remained closed for over six months for maintenance while Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, which operates TIA always seems reluctant to hold its airport officials responsible for the mess.
Representatives of international airlines said that lack of aircraft parking bays at TIA was a major hassle for aircraft operators. “Non- availability of parking bays often leads to congestion while the movement of larger jets has also increased during the tourist season,” they said, adding that every international airline was suffering due to this problem. “It’s also a tough task for air traffic controllers and TIA officials to ensure smooth flight operations due to lack of parking bays these days,” TIA spokesperson Prem Nath Thakur admitted. TIA which opens 18 hours a day now handles nearly 50 daily international flights.
According to operators, most of the flights choose to avoid bay-IX except in emergencies as the small space cannot even handle a narrow body aircraft. Whenever airline operators complain, Nepal Airlines Corporation and CAAN often blame each other for poor services relating to ground handling and airport operations, they added. Confirming delay in civil engineering work for several reasons, the TIA spokesperson said that maintenance was still under way at bay-IV. “The parking problem may worsen further as a few air carriers, including NAC, plan to add more wide body jets to their fleet in the coming days,” he said. According to stakeholders, TIA’s upgradation has become a far cry as a multi-million-dollar project failed to meet its deadline to improve structures such as expansion of the existing runway, construction of new taxiways, extension of the apron, installation of new lighting in the airfield and improvement of the international terminal, among others.
A version of this article appears in print on November 27, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.