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Nepal curfew hits Indian flights

India's airlines took a major hit after the Govt imposed curfew in Kathmandu with most flights carrying less than 50% passengers.

india Updated: Jan 21, 2006 18:40 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

After enjoying brisk business in Nepal during a four-month ceasefire called by Maoists late last year, India's airlines took a major hit on Friday after the government imposed a daylong curfew in Kathmandu Valley with most flights carrying less than 50 per cent passengers.

India's national carrier Indian Airlines suffered a major loss with its Delhi-Kathmandu flight on Friday carrying only 41 passengers in its Airbus 320 that can accommodate 145 passengers.

Though its flight from Kolkata fared better with 73 passengers, it was still less than the 80 passengers the airline needs for its flights to be cost-effective.

Two other private airlines from India, Jet and Sahara, also saw a dip in passengers as well as Nepal's budget airline, Cosmic.

Jet had 66 passengers on its Delhi-Kathmandu flight while Cosmic had 71 and Sahara 94, according to Nepal Tourism Board.

No figures were available for Royal Nepalese Airlines, Nepal's national carrier, leading to conjecture that the flight could have been cancelled.

The daily Delhi flights were hard-hit by the day curfew imposed by the government on Friday from 8 am to 6 pm to foil a mass protest called in capital city Kathmandu by a coalition of seven major opposition parties.

Home Minister Kamal Thapa added to the feeling of public anxiety with his statement that the government had information the Maoists would infiltrate the rally and try to incite violence.

However, the flights from Kolkata to Kathmandu, by virtue of operating thrice a week, fared better.

Cosmic's Kolkata-Kathmandu flight brought it 100 passengers.

With developments in Nepal being covered extensively by the media of India, any unrest in the country affects Indo-Nepal business transactions immediately.

However, in other countries where the news percolates at a much slower rate, it is business as usual.

Gulf Air's flight from Abu Dhabi did good business with 257 passengers, followed by Thai Air with 212 passengers.

Even Royal Nepalese Airlines' Kuala Lumpur-Kathmandu flight fared better than the Delhi flights with 183 passengers.

The drop in Delhi passengers revived memories of February 1, 2005, when King Gyanendra seized power with the help of the army and shut down the Tribhuvan International Airport, Nepal's only international airport, grounding all flights.

India-Nepal flights are also likely to be affected this February with the Maoists having called a seven-day Nepal shutdown from February 5. Further upheavals are on the cards with the government having vowed to hold local elections on Feb 8 and the major opposition parties beginning a poll boycott campaign.

First Published: Jan 21, 2006 18:40 IST