December 6: Lumbini Province Office of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) has demanded regular operation of international flights to and from Bhairahawa-based Gautam Buddha International Airport.
A delegation of CAAN Lumbini Province made such a demand while submitting a memorandum to CAAN Director General Pradeep Adhikari on Tuesday, according to the state-owned RSS.
Receiving the memo, Adhikari reportedly said CAAN would leave no stone unturned for regular operation of international flights from the airport.
Meanwhile, the RSS reported that the delegation also met with officials of the Asian Development Bank on Monday and put forth the same demand as the airport was built with financial support from the ADB.
Outgoing Chairperson of CAAN Lumbini Province, Sagar Adhikari, stressed that ADB's support for regular operation of international flights at Gautam Buddha International Airport was necessary.
Similarly, the delegation also urged Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Sudan Kirati, for regular operation of international flights at the airport.
Tourism entrepreneurs have invested billions of rupees in Bhairahawa and Lumbini area for tourism infrastructures after the construction of Gautam Buddha International Airport and their investments have gone to waste in lack of full operation of the airport. So the entrepreneurs have been demanding regular operation of international flights at the airport.
Built with an investment of Rs 35 billion, the airport was inaugurated on May 16, 2022.
The operation of Gautam Buddha International Airport was expected to reduce the air traffic congestion at TIA and was also believed to promote religious tourism due to its proximity to Lumbini, a pilgrimage site of Buddhists from all over the world.
However, the airport is struggling to attract airline companies due to lack of passengers.
Government officials say that the passengers, mainly those leaving the country for foreign employment, are compelled to take labour permits and other documents from the Department of Foreign Employment and also undergo health check-ups in Kathmandu, and are reluctant to visit Bhairahawa for international flights.