Dipalay took the inaugural flight from Kathmandu to Kolkata.
Effective 27th May 2019, Buddha Air – one of the most successful private carriers from Nepal launched a three-weekly flight on the Kathmandu – Kolkata sector. This marks a new beginning for both India and Nepal in terms of aviation links.
The sector which has previously seen operations from Nepal Airlines (then Royal Nepal Airlines) sees Buddha Air as the only Nepali operator. Hitherto, this was a monopoly sector for Air India which operates 4x weekly flights between the Cultural capital of India and the Nepali capital, deploying the Airbus A319 aircraft configured with 144 seats.
No sooner than the announcement from Buddha Air and opening of sale of tickets, I had made up my mind to be part of the inaugural flight. Cut to the day of departure, I reached the Tribhuvan International Airport at Kathmandu at 0630hours local time for a 0800hours departure. The check-in was a smooth affair with the counter staff being very welcoming. “A window seat” was my answer when asked for my seat preference. At this time of the day, entering the airport till check-in was in less than 10 minutes. Tribhuvan International airport is the largest and the busiest airport in the country and currently its only international gateway with plans afoot for a new airport becoming operational soon in the western part of the country.
Immigration was equally fast and friendly. With an hour to departure, I rested in the Security hold area of the airport. A quick look around showed that there were about 30 passengers on this inaugural flight to Kolkata. At 0730hours, the airline made an announcement for boarding and we were bussed to the aircraft which was parked a few meters away from the main building. Operating the inaugural was 9N-AMY – the airlines latest ATR72-500 which was inducted just two months ago.
I was the first booking on this sector and also the first person to be in the queue and as I got down from the bus, none other than Mr Birendra Bahadur Basnet – the MD of Buddha Air was standing in front of the aircraft to welcome us passengers. I was elated as he shook hands and gifted me the traditional scarf.
My first impression of the cabin was that it could have been cleaned up a bit better but it wasn’t very bad. Members of the cabin crew stood near the door to welcome me as I entered the aircraft and settled in my seat – 14D. Boarding was complete at 0750hours, 10 minutes ahead of departure time and the aircraft was now ready for departure. Soon, the pilot announced on PA that there would be a delay of 30 minutes and this delay was due to the runway re-carpeting work which is under progress at Kathmandu. At 0825hours, pilot announced pushback and we taxied out. At 0830 hours we were airborne and this was the first departure out from Kathmandu for the day.
About 15 minutes into the flight, the cabin crew started the service. The meal included two muffins, one sandwich, a fruit juice and a Cadbury dairy milk along with a cup of tea or coffee. For a short flight, the meal was sufficient, and I would rate it 7 on 10. The flight was smooth and at 0950 hours Indian time, we touched down at Kolkata’s Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose international airport. I was hoping for a water canon salute but that was not the case to be.
As we taxied-in, I noticed that it was Air India who was to handle Buddha Air flights in Kolkata and we were welcomed with a rose. The passengers entered the terminal amidst smiles and clapping from the Airports Authority of India staff.
With no other arrival at this time of the day, the international arrivals section was empty helping clear immigration quickly and the baggage was on the belt in no time as well. The flight had a few Buddha Air management who were part of the celebrations for the inaugural Kolkata departure.
For an avgeek, all flights are special but an inaugural is a different experience.
All pic credits to Dipalay