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BUSINESS - AIR SAHARA NEPAL FLIGHTS

 

Air Sahara to resume Kathmandu flights in May 

 

 

BY OUR AVIATION CORRESPONDENT

May 13, 2005: Indian private carrier Air Sahara is planning to resume its New Delhi-Kathmandu flights "soon", immediately after the political crisis in Nepal settles down. Air Sahara is also believed to be in talks with tour and travel agents both in Nepal and India for booking tickets on its flights, while the carrier is expected to take to the Himalayan kingdom by mid-May. 

Air Sahara is expecting the political turmoil in Nepal to blow over, before re-starting its flights and is waiting on the wings to resume flights.

Load factor, or occupancy rate, of the airline had dipped after Nepal's King Gyanendra seized power on February one, 2005, through a bloodless coup and imposed a state of emergency, with load factor dipping to as low as seven per cent in the sector.

Airlines need at least a 75 per cent load factor to operate on a profitable basis. 

The country has majority of tourists from India and those who travel through India, rather than for business and occupational visits. 

Now with a political stability expected in that country, people have started flocking back to the tourist destinations as they used to prior to February one, 2005. 

The presence of huge seat capacity in the market has compounded the situation, aviation sources said.

Besides Air Sahara, Indian Airlines and Jet Airways, Nepal's state carrier Royal Nepalese Airlines and private Nepalese operator Cosmic Air operate in the Delhi-Kathmandu sector.

This is the second time that Air Sahara has suspended operations in the sector and the airline had cited "operational problems", while aviation sources attributed it to a shortage of pilots.

This is the second time in three months that Air Sahara has grounded its Delhi-Kathmandu flights in less than a year of its Nepal debut. Earlier, the services were discontinued after the closing down of Tribhuvan International Airport at Kathmandu, after king Gyanendra seized power and declared a state of emergency.

However, while the other airlines resumed service from February three, Air Sahara suspended its flights for over a month from February eight till March 13. 

Air Sahara's Kathmandu flights have been dogged by disruptions since inception. The first inaugural schedule was postponed in August 2004 after Kathmandu valley was shaken by an indefinite blockade called by Maoist insurgents. 

The second date of September one had to be cancelled when violence erupted nationwide in Nepal following the killing of 12 Nepalese workers in Iraq.

Though the Kathmandu-Delhi flight finally took off September 16, the airline had to face stiff competition from othr players operating in the sector. 

An increase in Maoist insurgency and political uncertainty have hit air arrivals in Nepal, causing the number of Indian visitors to slump by about 40 percent, compared to last year. 

BY OUR AVIATION CORRESPONDENT

 

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