May 16: Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba formally inaugurated the Gautam Buddha International Airport (GBIA) amid a function in Bhairahawa on Monday (May 16) on the occasion of Buddha Jayanti festival.
While inaugurating the strategically important airport, the PM said that with the opening of GBIA has created the foundation for the nation's tourism and sustainable economic development. PM Deuba expressed his belief that the arrival of tourists will increase with opening of the second international airport of Nepal.
Experts believed that this airport will help reduce air traffic congestion at the Tribhuvan International Airport and also play a vital role in promotion of religious tourism due to its close proximity with Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautam Buddha.
Director General of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) Pradeep Adhikari said GBIA will serve as an alternative to TIA for the operation of international flights. He further added that the operation of GBIA has put to an end the compulsion of having to divert airplanes to the neighbouring countries in emergency situations when aircraft could not land or take off from TIA due to technical problems.
On the occasion, Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Prem Bahadur Ale said GBIA is one among the five national pride projects to be completed, adding that the country's tourism and economic development would take a stride after the completion of all these five projects under the Ministry of Tourism.
“Nepal's message of peace and prosperity would be spread across the world from the land of the Buddha,” said Minister Ale.
The tourism minister also announced that the TIA and GBIA would be operated for 24 hours a day from today.
The construction of the GBIA had started in early 2015 with the target of completing it within December 2017. However, the construction was stalled in the middle due to the negligence of the construction company. Following extended deadlines, the airport has been finally brought into operation for commercial flights about five years later due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the CAAN, approximately Rs 11 billion has been invested in the first phase of this project constructed with soft loan provided by the Asian Development Bank. The process of construction of the terminal building under the second phase would be forwarded soon. The airport is being constructed by a Chinese construction company.
Domestic airlines have been operating flights since the past few weeks after the successful completion of calibration and test flights. Private airlines companies such as Buddha Air, Yeti Airlines, Shree Airlines, Saurya Airlines, among others are operating flights from here.
However, international flights has been opened only on May 16 coinciding with the day of the official inauguration of the airport. According to the airport office, the first flight of Nepal Airlines Corporation landed at 6:55 am on Monday morning, and the Jazeera Airway flight landed at 7:08 am.