sq_ek_freak
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Viability Of Long Haul Flights To KTM

Wed May 02, 2012 4:32 pm

Having links to Nepal and being a long time visitor, I was hoping people could help me make sense of the long haul market at Kathmandu. The complete lack of any long haul air links to Nepal kind of perplexes me, especially when you have such tourist demand to Nepal. I realize that yields to KTM can't be that high, with most O&D traffic being either lower end tourist (though it should be noted that the Nepalese tourism market is maturing and is attracting higher yielding tourists) or overseas workers, but if neighboring cities like DAC can sustain services to Europe, why can't KTM?

Previous long haul operators to KTM were Transavia from AMS, Austrian from Vienna and Aeroflot from Moscow. Further back I believe Lufthansa used to operate to KTM, via KHI I think. All of these actors came and went relatively quickly, with the exception of LH who stayed for a while but eventually ended operations some time in the 1990s. I think the longest flight currently into KTM is the once weekly KE flight from Seoul.

Given that Nepal Airlines has completely axed their Europe services, do you think its time for a European carrier to step in to fill the void? Given the huge amount of European visitors Nepal receives, you'd think it would be a viable option. Or do the presence of the Gulf carriers in KTM make this prohibitive? QR has a rather big operation in KTM, and Etihad, FlyDubai, Oman Air and Air Arabia all have flights too. I know TG does very well on their KTM flights, upgrading equipment from the A300 to the B777, and for a period operating a 10x weekly schedule into the country. I am told a large portion of passengers are tourists not only from Asia, North America and Oceania, but Europe as well even though it involves some backtracking for these guys.

If a European carrier was ever to start flights to Nepal, who would be the most likely candidate? KLM with an A332? BA with a B763?
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Thomas_Jaeger
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RE: Viability Of Long Haul Flights To KTM

Wed May 02, 2012 5:28 pm

ArkeFly from the Netherlands has a seasonal weekly B737-800 service to Kathmandu in winter that stops in Sharjah on the way.

I think that there are several reasons why the European carriers would struggle to resume KTM at this point, one being that there are now connection options with QR, EY, WY that did not existed last time around, another one being that travelling via India is becoming a bit more convenient as well as air fares on the DEL-KTM route have gone down quite a bit over the years and DEL now (apparently, have not been there myself yet) offers a much nicer transfer experience than it did before. That coupled with the mix of passengers you would get on the route most probably makes it more of a potential target for some one like Condor or one of the UK leisure carriers next.
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yowza
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RE: Viability Of Long Haul Flights To KTM

Wed May 02, 2012 7:04 pm

Where to begin... KTM's problems are largely a holdover of Nepal's problems as a country.

Quoting sq_ek_freak (Thread starter):
The complete lack of any long haul air links to Nepal kind of perplexes me, especially when you have such tourist demand to Nepal. I realize that yields to KTM can't be that high, with most O&D traffic being either lower end tourist

There are couple of things at play here. You've correctly identified that a lot of the traffic into Nepal is low end tourism. This being the case low fares will almost always win. In this regard European carriers generally get crushed by gulf competition. This dip in prices is heightened by the sheer volume of seats from the Gulf into Nepal. At one time QR was 16 weekly to KTM. It will take a massive turnaround in Nepal's tourism development efforts for this to change. This requires investments, infrastructure and the lure of top end brands, the W's, The Four Seasons etc. There are folks spending more for one night at a water bungalow in the Maldives than many spend in a week in Nepal... At a minimum this kind of development would be needed to get European carriers interested again. As it stands sending precious wide bodies on 7k sectors with little premium traffic and no real guarantees of lower end traffic is a simple non-starter.

Quoting sq_ek_freak (Thread starter):
if neighboring cities like DAC can sustain services to Europe, why can't KTM?

DAC is a very different animal. Let's not forget Bangladesh has a population (~150M) 5 times the size of Nepal and that as a consequence of British colonialism the Bangladeshi disapora is far broader and deeper overseas than that of Nepal which Brits failed to conquer.   

Quoting sq_ek_freak (Thread starter):
Austrian from Vienna

Did they axe this? I thought it was seasonal?

Quoting sq_ek_freak (Thread starter):
Aeroflot from Moscow

I would assume this was largely political.

Quoting sq_ek_freak (Thread starter):
Lufthansa used to operate to KTM

RA used to also fly to Frankfurt. This was bolstered by the fact that back in the day Nepalis did not need a visa for Germany but did almost everywhere else in Europe.

Quoting sq_ek_freak (Thread starter):
Given that Nepal Airlines has completely axed their Europe services, do you think its time for a European carrier to step in to fill the void?

For the reason's above, no. Unless at an extreme stretch they can craft out a very interesting niche market using KTM as the stop. Perhaps LIS-KTM-MFM. Or a triangular service through India.

Quoting sq_ek_freak (Thread starter):
QR has a rather big operation in KTM, and Etihad, FlyDubai, Oman Air and Air Arabia all have flights too.

As mentioned QR was huge into KTM. For some reason the Qataris got into the Nepal labor market much more than the other GCC countries. Some of the flights ran DOH-KTM-KUL tapping into a significant Nepali population on both ends. There are tiny rumbling that When RGN comes back online for QR that a DOH-KTM-RGN service could be in the mix.

Quoting sq_ek_freak (Thread starter):
I know TG does very well on their KTM flights, upgrading equipment from the A300 to the B777, and for a period operating a 10x weekly schedule into the country.

TG has been in KTM forever. TG is very well respected in the country.

Quoting sq_ek_freak (Thread starter):
If a European carrier was ever to start flights to Nepal, who would be the most likely candidate? KLM with an A332? BA with a B763?

I think both BA and KL are sort of clawing back on their more adventurous services.  

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Viscount724
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RE: Viability Of Long Haul Flights To KTM

Wed May 02, 2012 9:51 pm

Apart from the economics and lack of demand, I would think KTM's 4,400 ft. elevation may be a factor in the lack of longhaul nonstops to/from Europe, as well as the mountainous terrain.
 
klwright69
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RE: Viability Of Long Haul Flights To KTM

Thu May 03, 2012 7:57 am

Quoting Viscount724 (Reply 3):
Apart from the economics and lack of demand, I would think KTM's 4,400 ft. elevation may be a factor in the lack of longhaul nonstops to/from Europe, as well as the mountainous terrain.

I doubt this is any factor. DEN is higher and has nonstops to Europe.

The Gulf carriers have a mega seat count to KTM. This is the NUMBER ONE obstacle.
 
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RWA380
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RE: Viability Of Long Haul Flights To KTM

Thu May 03, 2012 11:26 am

Quoting YOWza (Reply 2):

TG has been in KTM forever. TG is very well respected in the country

Yes they have, I got a 1/250 scale resin model of a 743 from TG for working at the top agency producer of Thai tickets in the USA one year, and almost all we sold was KTM, our company had an office in KTM and the main office here in the USA, doing educational treks to Nepal. At that time, late 80's, early 90's, the TG flights were from SEA and stopped enroute, (TPE, KIX or NRT)P which had KTM passengers stay in BKK with forced overnights both ways. When TG had the non-stop to LAX, the connections to KTM were only a matter of hours in both directions. TG still carries a fair percentage of the US to Nepal passengers. The KE services never seemed to have good connections. TG is very well respected in Nepal, and by mountain climbers worldwide. Although since the DEL-KTM fares came down so much, connecting in DEL is a decent option for same day connections, but a long trek from the West Coast going via India, now I guess QR is best?

TG lost an A-300 in Nepal in that same time frame I mentioned above, We had passengers on that flight. Vary sad day.

[Edited 2012-05-03 04:39:28]
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sq_ek_freak
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RE: Viability Of Long Haul Flights To KTM

Thu May 03, 2012 3:03 pm

Quoting klwright69 (Reply 4):
The Gulf carriers have a mega seat count to KTM. This is the NUMBER ONE obstacle.

Unfortunately this is what I assumed, I suppose with their presence in the market there just isn't room for a European carrier.

Quoting YOWza (Reply 2):
RA used to also fly to Frankfurt. This was bolstered by the fact that back in the day Nepalis did not need a visa for Germany but did almost everywhere else in Europe.

I didn't realize this - was this pre-EU days? Its a pity that RA is a shadow of its former self.

Quoting YOWza (Reply 2):
Did they axe this? I thought it was seasonal?

I don't think OS has been in KTM for quite a while...

Quoting YOWza (Reply 2):

I would assume this was largely political.

Agreed, though I do think the flight enjoyed reasonable loads.

Quoting YOWza (Reply 2):
TG has been in KTM forever. TG is very well respected in the country.

True, I remember the TG office in KTM was quite nicely decked out, and had an awesome wall display of the airline's history in the country. KTM was in fact one of TG's earliest destinations, and I think the TG DC-8 was the first scheduled jet service to Nepal.

Quoting RWA380 (Reply 5):
TG lost an A-300 in Nepal in that same time frame I mentioned above, We had passengers on that flight. Vary sad day.

It was an A310 and I had a relative on the flight too (she was on her honeymoon in fact)  
Quoting YOWza (Reply 2):
There are couple of things at play here. You've correctly identified that a lot of the traffic into Nepal is low end tourism. This being the case low fares will almost always win. In this regard European carriers generally get crushed by gulf competition. This dip in prices is heightened by the sheer volume of seats from the Gulf into Nepal. At one time QR was 16 weekly to KTM. It will take a massive turnaround in Nepal's tourism development efforts for this to change. This requires investments, infrastructure and the lure of top end brands, the W's, The Four Seasons etc. There are folks spending more for one night at a water bungalow in the Maldives than many spend in a week in Nepal... At a minimum this kind of development would be needed to get European carriers interested again. As it stands sending precious wide bodies on 7k sectors with little premium traffic and no real guarantees of lower end traffic is a simple non-starter.

It's really a shame that a country like Nepal can't get its act together and create a viable tourist industry - it has such tremendous natural beauty and the people are so amazing. Its the politicians that seem to pillage what they can while in power and disappear after. With Nepal making moves towards a federated republic, the future does not seem all that promising unfortunately. All you have to do is look at Bhutan and compare the state of affairs there with Nepal and see the difference.
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behramjee
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RE: Viability Of Long Haul Flights To KTM

Thu May 03, 2012 5:54 pm

Quoting klwright69 (Reply 4):
The Gulf carriers have a mega seat count to KTM. This is the NUMBER ONE obstacle.

This is indeed the # 1 obstacle and the same holds true as to why the European carriers have cut back heavily on services and capacity to Dhaka, Colombo, Pakistan and some cities in India.

With EY daily, GF double daily, FZ double daily (interline with EK) + QR 4 daily, the amount of capacity on offer is more than enough to cater for the entire GCC + European market demand to/from KTM. In addition with a lower cost base than the EU carriers, they can in turn out price the EU airlines easily on an already price conscious route.

Also fyi the economy class yields to KTM from GCC and Europe is higher than India and DAC!
 
sq_ek_freak
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RE: Viability Of Long Haul Flights To KTM

Thu May 03, 2012 6:33 pm

Quoting behramjee (Reply 7):
With EY daily, GF double daily, FZ double daily (interline with EK) + QR 4 daily

GF and FZ are double daily!? And QR is FOUR times daily!? I hadn't realized that there is such capacity to KTM!!
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hoons90
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RE: Viability Of Long Haul Flights To KTM

Thu May 03, 2012 6:35 pm

Quoting sq_ek_freak (Thread starter):
I think the longest flight currently into KTM is the once weekly KE flight from Seoul.

Right now it's 2 per week. A third frequency is added at certain times of the year, not sure exactly when, but I've seen it before.
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sq_ek_freak
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RE: Viability Of Long Haul Flights To KTM

Thu May 03, 2012 8:15 pm

Quoting HOONS90 (Reply 9):
Right now it's 2 per week. A third frequency is added at certain times of the year, not sure exactly when, but I've seen it before.

Thanks for the correction - is it still a 777 rotation? And do crews get the lengthy layover in KTM, or do they deadhead back to ICN?
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hoons90
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RE: Viability Of Long Haul Flights To KTM

Thu May 03, 2012 8:29 pm

Quoting sq_ek_freak (Reply 10):
Thanks for the correction - is it still a 777 rotation? And do crews get the lengthy layover in KTM, or do they deadhead back to ICN?

Yes, it's operated by the 772s that have the older angled lie flat seats in J. I believe that there are two sets of crew on it, one that works the outbound (and deadheads inbound) and one that works the inbound (and deadheads outbound). I am guessing that when the flight operates thrice weekly, the crews have a layover.
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Viscount724
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RE: Viability Of Long Haul Flights To KTM

Thu May 03, 2012 8:35 pm

Quoting klwright69 (Reply 4):
Quoting Viscount724 (Reply 3):
Apart from the economics and lack of demand, I would think KTM's 4,400 ft. elevation may be a factor in the lack of longhaul nonstops to/from Europe, as well as the mountainous terrain.

I doubt this is any factor. DEN is higher and has nonstops to Europe.
Quoting klwright69 (Reply 4):
Quoting Viscount724 (Reply 3):
Apart from the economics and lack of demand, I would think KTM's 4,400 ft. elevation may be a factor in the lack of longhaul nonstops to/from Europe, as well as the mountainous terrain.

I doubt this is any factor. DEN is higher and has nonstops to Europe.

But DEN isn't surrounded by high mountains, and DEN's runways are much longer -- 12,000 ft. and one 16,000 ft, (one of the longest commercial runways in the world) compared to KTM's 10,000 ft. runway.
 
sq_ek_freak
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RE: Viability Of Long Haul Flights To KTM

Thu May 03, 2012 8:48 pm

Quoting HOONS90 (Reply 11):
Yes, it's operated by the 772s that have the older angled lie flat seats in J. I believe that there are two sets of crew on it, one that works the outbound (and deadheads inbound) and one that works the inbound (and deadheads outbound). I am guessing that when the flight operates thrice weekly, the crews have a layover.

God that's a ghastly rotation! I hope for the crew's sake they do eventually get a layover, not in the least because Kathmandu is such a vibrant and fun city.
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