KATHMANDU, Nepal – Nepal’s domestic air passenger movement continued to shrink for four straight years, dropping 5.96 percent in 2015, as a series of disasters struck the country denting travel demand.
According to the data of Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), domestic carriers received 86,510 less flyers last year. These airlines carried 1.36 million passengers in 2015 against 1.45 million the year before. The figure includes the 72,394 passengers flown by seven domestic helicopter and single-engine companies.
Airline officials said that although the April 25 earthquake last year had briefly boosted air travel demand, the subsequent aviation fuel shortage hit airlines hard.
Besides, high fares, bad weather conditions and a slowed economy led to a slump in air travel demand, they said.
Passenger movement has been on a constant decline since 2012 marking a departure from the robust growth rates seen since 2008 when airlines were flying high due to competitive airfares, constant protests and road blockades forcing travelers to take to the year, increased NGO/INGO staff movement after the peace process and a real estate boom.
Airlines saw a heady growth of 13 percent in 2008 which jumped to 33 percent in 2009 as they cut fares amid stiff competition. Although passenger movement increased 12.83 percent in 2010, the growth rate started dropping in 2011 and has shown a negative growth since 2012.
The Nepali skies saw 65,865 flights during the review period, a drop of 3.89 percent. According to the stats, Nepali skies recorded an average of 180 domestic flight movements daily.
“The earthquakes had increased the domestic flight frequency dramatically when panic-stricken people started to travel to the Tarai plains, but a subsequent fuel shortage dampened the airline business,” said Ghanashyam Acharya, spokesperson for the Airlines Operators Association of Nepal.
The aviation fuel shortage that started in September last year lasted for more than five months. Domestic airlines were forced to halve their flight frequency during the crisis.
Acharya said that a falling tourist numbers was also one of the major factors behind the drop in passenger numbers last year. “However, as the tourism sector has started to rebound, we are optimistic that the airline business will pick up with it.”
Most airlines suffered a sharp decline in passenger numbers. Buddha saw its passenger carriage decline 8.13 percent to 734,870 in 2015. Yeti Airlines saw its passenger movement drop 18.66 percent to 332,713.
Yeti’s subsidiary Tara Air, which only operates on remote sectors, observed a negative passenger growth of 37.06 percent. It flew 48,469 passengers last year.
Saurya Airlines, that started operations in November 2014, carried 86,935 passengers last year. Likewise, Simrik Airlines saw its passenger numbers plunge by 43.83 percent to 46,132.
However, Nepal Airlines and Sita Air saw passenger growth during the review period. Nepal Airlines received 42,535 passengers, up 21.60 percent, and Sita Air received 11,760 passengers, up 3.58 percent.
Goma Air, that brought its first LET 410 aircraft in October 2014 and anotherone in March 2015, carried 31,029 passengers, according to TIA statistics.