Why are Lukla flights diverted to Ramechhap from Kathmandu?

By Glorious Himalaya on March 13, 2023 in Trekking, Travel Tips

The breathtaking beauty of the Himalayas has always been a major attraction for adventure seekers and mountaineers from all over the world. Nepal, home to the tallest peak in the world, Mount Everest, has always been a popular destination for these thrill-seekers. However, reaching the base of the mountain is not an easy feat. The only way to get to the base of the mountain is to take a flight to Lukla, the gateway to Everest. But in recent times, there has been a change in the flight plan, with Lukla flights diverting to Ramechhap from Kathmandu. So, what’s the reason behind this change? Let’s find out.

Lukla and its one-of-a-kind Airport

Lukla, also known as Tenzing Hillary Airport, is a small airstrip located in the Solukhumbu district of Nepal, nestled in the heart of the mighty Himalayas. The airport has gained fame for being one of the most unique and challenging airports in the world. It sits at an elevation of 9,334 feet, making it the highest-altitude airport with a paved runway. Additionally, the airport’s runway is just 1,729 feet long, and it is built on a steep incline of 12%, making it an absolutely nerve-wracking experience for pilots and passengers alike. The runway ends with a sheer drop into a valley, and there is no go-around procedure, meaning that pilots must be highly skilled and precise to land safely. Despite these challenges, the airport remains the primary gateway to the Everest region, attracting thousands of trekkers and mountaineers each year. Overall, Lukla and its airport stand as a testament to the beauty and ruggedness of the Himalayas and the human spirit’s resilience in the face of nature’s challenges.

Kathmandu-Lukla Flights

Kathmandu to Lukla flight is renowned for Everest region trekking as it serves as the primary gateway to the region and is a popular destination for global trekkers and mountaineers. Prior to the airport’s construction in Lukla, trekking for days through remote mountain trails was the only way to reach the region. However, with the airport’s opening, access to the region has become significantly easier and faster, allowing trekkers and mountaineers to save time and energy and focus on the Everest journey’s challenge.

The flight from Kathmandu to Lukla is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for any traveler. It starts at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, where a small plane takes off and rises high above the bustling city below. As the plane ascends, the stunning Kathmandu valley landscape appears, with the towering Himalayas in the distance. The flight is brief, only about 30 minutes, but offers spectacular views of the majestic mountains and beautiful valleys, making it an unforgettable experience.

The flights typically take place early in the morning, between 6:00 am to 9:00 am, depending on weather conditions and other factors. Early morning flights are scheduled due to the unpredictable weather conditions in the Everest region, which tend to change rapidly during the day. High winds and cloud cover are common, making it difficult to fly later in the day. Therefore, early morning flights offer the best chance of good weather conditions and visibility, which is crucial for a safe flight into the mountainous region. Additionally, early morning flights allow trekkers and mountaineers to reach Lukla early in the day, giving them plenty of time to acclimate to the altitude and start their trek towards Everest Base Camp or other destinations in the region.

About Ramechhap Airport

Ramechhap Airport, situated in the Ramechhap district of Nepal, is a viable alternative to Kathmandu’s main airport for flights to Lukla. On April 1, 2019, Tara Air initiated the first Lukla flight from Ramechhap Airport, and several other airlines have followed suit since then. As a result, the airport has gained popularity as an alternative for travelers heading to the Everest region, and its facilities have been upgraded to meet the increasing demand. With its reliable services and convenient location, Ramechhap Airport has emerged as a go-to option for trekkers and mountaineers seeking to explore the breathtaking landscapes of the Everest region.

What led to the flights being diverted from Kathmandu to Ramechhap?

Now let’s come to the reason why Lukla flights are being diverted to Ramechhap. In 2019, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) decided to shift all Lukla flights from Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport to Ramechhap Airport. This decision was made to ease traffic congestion at Kathmandu’s airport during peak tourist season, which typically occurs between September to November and March to May. The airport has only one runway, which makes it difficult to manage the high volume of air traffic during peak season. Additionally, the airport’s location in a densely populated area makes it challenging to expand or construct a new runway.

Another reason for diverting Lukla flights to Ramechhap is the improvement in road infrastructure. The distance between Kathmandu and Ramechhap is about 130 km, and the drive takes around 4-5 hours. In the past, the road conditions were poor, making it challenging to travel to Ramechhap. However, the construction of the newly paved road from Kathmandu to Ramechhap has made the journey more comfortable and faster. The road improvement has made it easier to transport passengers from Kathmandu to Ramechhap, reducing the time and cost required for travel.

How to reach Ramechhap from Kathmandu for Lukla Flights?

There are several ways to reach Ramechhap for Lukla flights. One way is to hire a private vehicle or book a taxi from Kathmandu, which takes approximately 4-5 hours, depending on traffic. Another option is to take a public bus, which is a more economical choice but can take longer due to multiple stops along the way. For a quicker and more convenient option, travelers can also take a direct flight from Kathmandu to Ramechhap, which only takes around 15-20 minutes.

Note: Ramechhap to Lukla flights generally occur in the morning, usually between 6:30 AM to 10:30 AM, depending on the airline and weather conditions. You may have to take a night bus to Ramechhap.

Present Condition of the Flights to Lukla

The present conditions of flights to Lukla vary depending on the season. During the peak tourist season, which typically occurs between September to November and March to May, Lukla flights are diverted to Ramechhap Airport. However, during the off-season, which typically occurs between December to February and June to August, flights from Kathmandu to Lukla are available as usual. During this time, trekkers and mountaineers have a better chance of getting flights directly to Lukla without the need for diversion.

The shift to Ramechhap Airport has helped reduce the number of flights taking off and landing at Kathmandu airport, reducing the load on the airport’s infrastructure and allowing for smoother operations. In conclusion, the diversion of Lukla flights to Ramechhap has proven to be a reliable and convenient option for trekkers and mountaineers seeking to explore the stunning landscapes of the Everest region, especially during peak tourist season.

It is worth noting that despite the rerouting of Lukla flights to Ramechhap, the journey to Lukla remains one of the world’s most sought-after adventures. The panoramic views of the Himalayan mountain range, including Mount Everest, are simply breathtaking, and the trekking experience is unforgettable. However, it is crucial to plan ahead and book flights in advance, especially during peak tourist season, to ensure a comfortable journey. Additionally, keeping an eye on the weather conditions and being prepared for sudden changes is essential in making the most of this once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

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