By Laxman Paudel Bhairahawa,April, 1: Preparations are being made to bring Bhairahawa’s Gautam Buddha International Airport (GBIA) into operation within the next one and a half months. If everything goes according to plan, the airport will start hosting international flights from May 16, Buddha Jayanti.
Kuwait’s Jazeera Airways has proposed to operate flights every day of the week from the airport. According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), the airlines has asked for permission to operate direct flights between Bhairahawa and Kuwait City. Jazeera currently offers daily flights from Kathmandu to Kuwait City.
Deo Chandra Lal Karn, spokesperson for CAAN, said that the aviation body expected other airlines to make similar proposals. “Other companies may also be formulating plans. The interest shown by Jazeera has us excited,” he said. The Government of Nepal has formally requested global airline companies to operate commercial flights from and to GBIA. Accordingly, 11 companies have expressed their interest. Especially, airlines from countries where Nepalis work as migrant labourers have approached CAAN.
But before flights can begin, issues relating to GBIA’s internal management have to be sorted out and an agreement has to be reached with India regarding the availability of air routes. Simara is currently the only entry point into Bhairahawa. Nepal has asked India to make the routes via Mahendranagar, Nepalgunj and Bhairahawa available too but the latter has not yet granted permission for it.
Meanwhile, a test flight will be conducted at the airport by the national flag carrier Nepal Airlines Corporation on April 14 – the Nepali New Year.
“Once the airport begins service, airplanes that are not able to land in Kathmandu for whatever reasons will be able to land here,” Karn said. Locals hope that the airport will bring tourists to Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautam Buddha and bring visitors from China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and other Buddhist nations.