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Wedding season gives a boost to airlines companies



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By Aashish Mishra
Kathmandu, Dec. 11: Yamuna Shilakar went to Bharatpur, Chitwan last week to attend a friend’s wedding. Because of the threat of COVID-19, she decided to go by air and hence booked a ticket with Buddha Air. She was surprised when she reached the airport.
“Almost everyone seemed to be flying to attend a wedding. Many were even dressed in Daura Suruwal and saris like they would join a Janti procession immediately after getting off the plane,” she said.
Madan Jha was also equally astonished during his flight from Kathmandu to Janakpur on Friday. He himself was travelling on business but said he saw many who were going to or returning from weddings. “I saw at least three couples – bride and groom – still in their wedding attires board the plane. I didn’t count or anything but from the conversations I had with other passengers, it looked like no less than 40 per cent of the people were on wedding-related travels,” he said.
Data provided by Tribhuvan International Airport shows that, on average, 3,752 people have been departing daily from Kathmandu to various destinations in the country since November 1. This puts the total number of people who have flown from the capital from the start of November to Sunday at approximately 150,000. This is nearly a 64 per cent increase from October when 91,166 departed from the airport’s domestic terminal and a 105 per cent increase from September when 73,173 flew domestically from Kathmandu.
It is to be noted that this increase lines up with the Nepali month of Mangsir – the season of weddings. This year’s Mangsir is even more significant because, astrologically, there are no more wedding dates after this month. This means that anyone wishing to get married will have to wait till next year.
This Mangsir is also seeing more weddings than previous years because of the March to July lockdown, as per couples’ matchmaker Mandala Baidya.
“People missed out on all the auspicious dates from Baisakh to Asar because of the nationwide shut down. There were no dates from Shrawan to Kartik. So, basically, everyone who wanted to get married this year is marrying this month. That is why this Mangsir is so jam-packed with weddings,” she said.
And all these factors have come together to push up domestic air traffic. Sudarshan Bartaula, spokesperson for Yeti Airlines, told The Rising Nepal that weddings had a significant hand in increasing passenger flow. “This would have been the off-season had it not been for marriages,” he informed.
Interestingly, entire families and wedding parties are travelling by air this year instead of conventional vans or buses because of COVID-19. Shivaji Shrestha and his family of 13, including uncles and cousins, flew to Bhadrapur, Jhapa on November 25 to prepare for Shrestha’s wedding. “It was expensive but road transport did not feel safe during these coronavirus days,” he said. Likewise, Jinny Thakali flew with her parents, four friends, 16 uncles and aunts and three children to get married to her boyfriend in Pokhara last Wednesday. “We chose to fly because it is fast and that way, we didn’t have to leave many days in advance,” she explained.
On Monady, Balaram Mayalu of Tinkune, Kathmandu, flew to Biratnagar taking the marriage procession of his son Ankur Ghimire. He had booked 12 tickets to and from Biratnagar.
He said he saw five pairs of bride and groom landing at Biratnagar airport from Buddha Air Monday evening when he was preparing to board the same plane.
“Later I saw three other pairs of bride and groom in the plane,” he added.
Anil Manandhar, corporate manager of Shree Airlines, believes that inexpensive airfares have also attracted passengers. “An abundance of supply and slightly cheaper fuel have helped the industry maintain competitive fares,” he said, adding, “Even generally, airfares to many destinations these days are either equal to or only nominally more expensive than the cost of, say, renting a deluxe bus.”
Mayalu said he spent less than Rs. 60,000 for the two-way flight of 12 persons.
Manandhar further added, “The role of safety can also not be understated. People are willing to pay some extra bucks to travel by air when they are convinced of the health safety measures.”
Manandhar also thinks that people travelling to weddings are opting for air travel because it is less tiring than road travel – an important thing when trying to maintain appearances during celebratory occasions.
Whether attending as a guest or participating as a bride or groom, more people appear to have taken to skies this season to celebrate the coming together of families in holy matrimony.