Buddha, Yeti racing to acquire new aircraft


29th Nov, 2016 | Tourism Mail Crew


KATHMANDU: Two major domestic airlines, Buddha Air and Yeti Airlines, are gearing up for a fierce battle with both of them racing to induct ATR 72 turboprops into their fleet next year.

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Last week, the Tourism Ministry gave Yeti Airlines the go-ahead to acquire four 74-seater ATR 72-500 aircraft. Yeti will be a new customer of the ATR family as it plans to phase out its 29-seater Jetstream 41s.

Likewise, Buddha plans to add two ATR 72s to its fleet by next year. The ministry has already approved its fleet expansion plan.

“We have planned to take delivery of the first of the two aircraft by mid-January next year,” said Subarna Kharel, senior executive manager of Buddha Air. “The second plane will join our fleet by July-August.”

Currently, Buddha operates three ATR 72s, three 42-seater ATR 42s and two 18-seater Beechcraft aircraft. It holds a 54 percent share of the domestic passenger market.

The carrier will be spending Rs2 billion on its expansion project. Kharel said that their fleet expansion was aimed at mitigating flight delays. “As we have a good market share and loyal customers too, we want to assure on-time flights to travellers.”

Domestic airlines are having a hard time as they are forced to cancel 42 percent of their scheduled flights due to poor weather and congestion at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA).

The ministry’s statistics show that domestic airlines had to cancel 18,328 flights in 2014. Of the 44,407 scheduled flights, only 27,920 took off. Buddha had to cancel 4,662 out of its 15,008 scheduled flights.

“The second aircraft we have planned to add will allow us to increase frequency on sectors like Dhangadhi, Bhadrapur, Janakpur and Pokhara,” said Kharel.

Likewise, Yeti plans to take delivery of two ATR 72-500, the most fuel-efficient aircraft in its category, by mid-2017. According to airline officials, another two turboprops will join the fleet by mid-2018.

The carrier plans to use them to support its domestic network and provide enhanced connectivity on trunk and short-haul routes. The ATR 72 will fly on routes like Bhadrapur, Biratnagar, Dhangadhi, Nepalgunj and Bhairahawa. Currently, Yeti serves the domestic market with seven Jetstream 41s aircraft. It has a 25 percent market share. Tourism Ministry officials said that the domestic airline industry was likely to see a shake-up in terms of airfare with helicopter operator Shree Airlines announcing plans to begin fixed-wing operations with a 50-seater Bombardier Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ-200).

As the number of planes in the air and the number of airlines in the market expands, fierce competition for a piece of the pie can be predicted among three major domestic airlines—Buddha Air, Yeti and Shree.KP