International Airlines in Nepal Look for Alternatives, India Still Blockades Borders

October 14, Kathmandu

The ongoing trade blockade imposed by India has forced international airlines connecting Nepal to fly with full fuel, make refueling stops, and even cancel flights. International airlines flying to Nepal have been denied aviation fuel after India imposed blockade on the Nepali borders. The situation has worsened these past few days, ironically, after India announced on Oct 10 that it will resume normal oil supply to Nepal without any blockade.

China Southern Airlines, that connects Nepal’s Kathmandu with Guangzhou, had earlier cancelled all flights until Oct 10. Issuing another statement on their Facebook page, they have declared to continue the suspension until November 10. This week, China Eastern Airlines also cancelled all their flights on the Kunming-Kathmandu route till Oct 26. Both the Chinese airlines operate narrow body jets on these routes.

Airlines forced to make stopovers

While some cancelled their Nepal flights altogether, many have been refueling outside the country. Air Arabia has been making refueling stops at India’s Lucknow while Turkish Airlines makes technical landing at New Delhi on route to Istanbul.

Similarly, Silk Air has been landing at Kolkata in India on route its flight to Singapore. Malaysia Airlines and Dragon Air make fuel stops at Bangladesh’s Dhaka. These “technical landings” cost airlines $8,000-$10,000.

Etihad, Thai and Qatar fly bigger jets with less passengers

Thai Airways Kathmandu

Thai Airways’ Boeing 777-200ER about to touch down at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu.

Photo by Suramya Khanal

Thai Airways, that used to operate a Boeing 777-200 on its Kathmandu flight, has upgraded to an -ER version of the jet. The “Extended Range” version can carry an extra 53,000 liters of fuel. Etihad and Qatar Airways have upgraded their flights from a narrow body Airbus A320 to a wide body Airbus A330—carrying less passengers but more fuel.


Etihad Airways’ Airbus A330-200 at Kathmandu (October 8, 2015)

Photo by Suramya Khanal

Nepal Airlines airlifting fuel at loss

Meanwhile, Nepal Airlines has been airlifting aviation turbine fuel to Kathmandu from Kolkata at a loss of Rs. 55/liter. The fuel will be sold by Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) to domestic airlines operating in Nepal. The fuel is of crucial importance these season because of the impending Dashain festival.

The Boeing 757 Combi aircraft used by Nepal Airlines transports fuel at Rs. 185 per liter while the selling price set at Kathmandu is Rs. 137 per liter. The Kathmandu Post reports that a reconsideration in price will be done only after 10-12 days.

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