Nepali airlines to resume mountain flights to draw tourists

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KATHMANDU, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) -- Nepal's airlines are resuming scheduled mountain flights over the Himalayas following a suspension that lasted more than four and a half months, targeting mainly Nepali and Indian tourists, industry representatives said Thursday.

Buddha Air and Yeti Airlines, both prominent private airlines in Nepal, are planning regular mountain flights from the coming Saturday and Sunday respectively.

"We conducted a chartered mountain flight for some Indian tourists last Saturday," Rupesh Joshi, marketing and sales director at Buddha Air, told Xinhua. "Starting from the coming Saturday, we shall conduct one flight a week in the Himalayan mountains for sightseeing."

Sudarshan Bartaula, spokesperson for Yeti Airlines, said his company has been conducting chartered mountain flights for a month and is preparing to resume scheduled flights from Sunday.

"Tickets have already been sold for Sunday's flight," he said, adding Yeti initially plans one flight per week.

Mountain flights were halted along with the suspension of domestic flights on May 3 after the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic struck Nepal in April. Domestic flights resumed on July 1, but the airlines did not restart mountain flights at that time.

Mountain flights have remained a lucrative business for Nepal's airlines operating domestic flights during the travel season in normal times.

The flights fly close to the Himalayan mountains from the west to the east, as Nepal has eight of the world's 14 tallest peaks in the world, including the highest Mt. Qomolangma (8848.86m) that straddles Nepal and China.

Early this week, the Nepali government decided to reopen all land border points for movement of the Nepali people and foreigners who have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

In the absence of foreign tourists, Buddha Air and Yeti Airlines are offering a respective discounted fare of 8,500 Nepali rupees (71.12 U.S. dollars) and 8,848 rupees (74.66 dollars) to attract Nepali and Indian tourists.

Nepal's airlines has lost about 25 billion rupees (210.97 million dollars) in potential earnings due to flight restrictions enforced after the first and second waves of the coronavirus hit the country in early 2020 and last April, according to a recent report of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal. Enditem

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