How domestic flights are booked
The system for booking internal flights in Nepal is unlike anywhere else in the world and this can cause confusion and frustrations.
When an internal flight is booked in Nepal it is booked for a particular day NOT for a day and a time. You cannot book for a particular timed flight.
For each itinerary, eg Lukla, Pokhara etc the airlines run shuttle planes many times daily, with the number of planned flights reflecting booked volumes.
When a booking is made, you are allocated to the airlines passenger departure list for that day and then allocated a flight based on when you booked. The first person to book KTM-Lukla on any date will be on Flight one. The further down the list of bookings you are the higher your flight number will be.
For example, if you book with Tara Airlines and book reasonably far ahead you might be on Tara Flight 3. What this means is that at the start of the day Flight 1 will leave as soon as conditions at KTM and Lukla are safe for take-off and landing.
Once Flight 1 departs, Tara may have a second plane on this itinerary so Flight 2 may depart quite quickly. Flight 3 though will then be the same plane that went out on Flight one so it has to go to Lukla and then return to KTM before you can depart, so there will be a wait.
If there is bad weather at Lukla, all flights will be delayed. This might be for an hour or it may be all day and at any point until late in the afternoon nobody will know if any flights are going.
If you book late, and are on Tara Flight 7 there is a much higher risk, if there are any delays, that your flight will not go at all. An added confusion is that the airlines only have stamps with which they mark a boarding pass up to 4 so flight 5 becomes flight 1 again on your boarding pass although the airline knows which flight is which.
Inevitably this process is time-consuming and frustrating as you need to be at the airport early and then may have to wait all day before being told your flight is not leaving that day.
Please also note that there are no allocated seats on the plane so clients will not be given a specific seat number. On the Lukla flight there is a rush to get seats on the left hand side outward bound and to get seats on the right on the return as these offer the view of the Himalaya.
Please accept that delays at Lukla and what appears to Westerners as total chaos is beyond our control and is the same for all tour operators and travelers.
Procedure in the event of flight delays
All of our trips to the Everest region, including trips to climb Island Peak or Mera Peak ,start with a short internal flight to Lukla Airport from Kathmandu. Lukla is situated at 2800m and the airport can be shut down by adverse weather conditions.
All our trips via Lukla are designed to allow great acclimatisation to ensure the very best chance of success and include a day back in Kathmandu as a contingency in case flights to or from Lukla are delayed. In recent years more and more flights to and from Lukla are subject to delays because of bad weather.
We therefore recommend that you consider one of these options:
- Book an international flight with a flexible ticket so that you can change the flight at no cost without incurring additional expense.
- Book further days in Kathmandu as contingency days so that if your flight is delayed you will not miss your flight. We can add extra nights at a cost of £50 pp/$65pp.
- Be prepared to pay for the cost of a helicopter flight from Lukla. Helicopters can fly in bad weather and so are not subject to delays. Depending on the number in the helicopter this may cost from $300 to $500 per person.
Outward bound delays: day one
If your flight is delayed we will arrange transport back to your hotel and will cover the hotel cost and the cost of the transfers. The cost of any further additional hotel nights will be at your expense and should be recovered from your travel insurers.
Outward bound delays: day two
If you can fly on the second day your trek will proceed as normal. We have time built into our itineraries to cope with this eventuality.
If it becomes clear that you will not be able to fly on day 2 our Guide will discuss with the group the possibility of chartering a helicopter. We will use all of the monies paid for the flight to cover part of the helicopter cost. Depending on the number in the group, the net extra cost payable by each passenger will generally be between $300-$500pp depending on availability and demand. Your guide will ascertain the best price and let you know as soon as practicable.
If the group cannot reach an agreement on chartering a helicopter we will again arrange transfers back to a hotel. The cost of the second night in the hotel and any further nights is payable by you and should be recovered under the terms of your travel insurance.
At this stage we will offer the group an alternative trek that can be completed safely in the time available. This is normally to the Annapurna region where flights are more reliable. If you decline this alternative, then effectively our service ends apart from the return airport transfer at the end of your trip. You are responsible for all additional costs incurred while you are in Nepal.
Should there be a significant delay at the end of your trek, we will endeavour to get you on the first fixed-wing flights to Kathmandu available. Should helicopters be able to fly, we will discuss with the group the possibility of a charter. This will be on the same basis as described above. If you have to stay in Lukla for an additional night, Kandoo will cover the cost of your lodge for one night. Additional nights will be at your expense and should be recovered on your travel insurance.
Please be aware that in the event of a delay that affects your onward international flight, you will be responsible for re-booking and for any associated costs. Again, these costs should be recovered from your insurer.
Hotel availability and flight delays
Please be aware that whenever you are checking into a hotel, whether on your normal itinerary or because of a cancelled flight, the hotel’s policy on check-in times will apply. If you arrive before the check-in time the hotel will endeavour to get a room ready as soon as possible and you are free to use the hotel’s facilities while you wait for your room.