TIA Is Too Congested

Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), the sole international airport in Nepal, is too congested now.[1]

  • Handling 420 flights (100 flights by foreign carriers) daily (2x the number five years ago) 
  • 20 domestic and 28 international airlines use it daily
  • International terminal designed to handle 1,340 passengers per hour. But it is handling 2,700 passengers per hour.
  • 12,000 staff working in three shifts
  • 1.75 million passengers used domestic flights in 2016

TIA is facing severe space crunch as the demand for parking space (due to the increasing number of domestic as well as international airlines) has far outstripped supply. There is a project to upgrade/expand runway, terminal spaces and other infrastructure at the TIA so that it can handle more passengers. However, the project is struggling to pick up pace. An international contractor’s contract was terminated because it could not perform as per the schedule. Like every large scale infrastructure, this one is also affected by poor project planning and implementation, procedural delays at the bureaucratic level, and political infringement. There is a plan to construct an international airport in Pokhara under Chinese assistance (loan), but it hasn't picked up much pace lately.  Similarly, a project related to the expansion of domestic airport, which will eventually become Gautam Buddha International Airport, ran into trouble due to cash shortage arising from slack performance by a local sub-contractor, which was hired illegally. 


Here is a report from TKP:

The subcontract was extended to Nirvik Chitrakar (Khanal), son of former premier and senior CPN-UML leader Jhala Nath Khanal; Raju Gurung, a local goon and UML orter; Furbha Sherpa, a UML-affiliated contractor; Shakti Dangol, a close relative of UML leader Khanal; and Manjit Rai, a UML cadre from Ilam, leader Khanal’s constituency.

The subcontractors were appointed to supply construction materials, labourers, fuel and heavy-duty vehicles. It is said the Chinese contractor handed over money to subcontractors to execute these tasks without any paperwork. Initially, the subcontractor hired workers and suppliers to provide construction materials, fuel and heavy-duty vehicles. But after the subcontractor fled, the Chinese company has been forced to foot the bill of the subcontractor.


In FY 2016, 753,002 tourists (15% of them Indians) visited Nepal; the corresponding number, in FY 2015 when catastrophic earthquakes had struck Nepal, was 538,970.  In 2012, 803,092 tourists visited Nepal and the average length of stay was 13.2 days. The government is aiming for one million visitors in FY 2017.

[1]“Traffic saturation jams TIA” The Kathmandu Post , April 19, 2017, accessed on April 21, 2017,

Chandan Sapkota
Senior Fellow, Nepal Economic Forum and Former Economics Officer at Asian Development Bank, Nepal Resident Mission
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