This report is about the colorful country and its airlines.
To book our flight to Kathmandu, we walked into one of the many travel agencies in Pokhara. We were offered an initial ticket price of $120. After a bit of haggling this came down to $90. At this point, we got up to leave and, just as were heading out the door, the travel agent stopped us and made a final offer of $70 (“final price, my friend”), which we accepted. No electronics were involved. The agent made the booking over the phone and wrote the ticket out to us by hand.
Before the flight I’d read a lot about the airport in Lukla, which is very difficult to land and take off from, but we never got to and flew only the Pokhara-Kathmandu route.
The airport in Pokhara was built in 1958 and services only local flights, the vast majority of which come from one of two places: Kathmandu and Jomsom. There are, however, plans to open the airport up to international flights from several nearby cities in India. Despite the seemingly poor state of the Nepali air fleet, this airport has had only one fatal accident in its entire history, back in 2002, when poor visibility resulted in a plane crash in the nearby mountains. The plane belonged to the airline company Shangri-La.
The company we flew with was Sita Air:
A charming airport!
Coca-Cola is apparently the official sponsor of the local police force:
A summary of local weather conditions on a digital billboard:
Mechanical scales for weighing luggage. The airport is somewhat lagging in terms of modern technology, and lacks an official website and online flight schedule.
We arrived 1.5 hours before departure time, but check in hadn’t even started. After walking around the airport for a while, it dawned on me that the time of departure indicated in my ticket, which was written by hand, was highly subjective. At that point the plane had left for Jomsom, and “once it gets back, it’ll take you to Kathmandu”, was the answer I got from a member of the airport staff It’s a pretty good feeling, never being in a rush to get anywhere! What a happy-go-lucky country this is.
The plane is fascinating!
The Dornier Do 228 is a twin-engine plane developed for regional airlines, and manufactured by the German company Dornier GmbH from 1981 to 1998. A total of 270 planes were built.
Of the few accidents on this model’s record, one took place in Nepal. A plane belonging to the company Agni Air crashed on the runway when attempting to land in heavy rain on 24 August 2010.
There was no pre-flight briefing at all. Instead, one of the pilots gave each passenger a caramel candy and earplugs as they entered the plane. The atmosphere in the snug cabin was quite cozy.
A view of Pokhara immediately after takeoff. Take note of the roofs of the houses at the bottom of the picture – slate sheets weighed down by rocks. This is a pretty typical sight for the poorer areas of South Asia. You can find the same thing in India.
The best part, of course – the twenty-six-thousand-foot peaks of the Himalayas on the horizon…
The plane flew quite slowly, and low. It manages to cover the distance between Pokhara and Kathmandu (124 miles) in 45 minutes.
Finally, we are greeted by the hospitable sight of Kathmandu:
Passengers from local flights are taken to the terminal by this bus. The trailer out back is for luggage.
The fueling truck:
Immediately after unloading the luggage, they begin loading the plane with some sort of sacks:
And then of course there’s the absolutely unique baggage trolley outside! The taxi drivers are already waiting behind the fence…
So there you have it, a trip on the local airlines of Nepal…
And in conclusion, here’s a warm “welcome on board” from Pakistani Airlines:
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