In the midst of a pandemic, SriLankan Airlines will debut in Kathmandu

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SriLankan Airlines will operate flights to Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, from Tuesday, connecting the island nation with the Himalayan nation.

“We have approved Sri Lankan Airlines flights effective August 31,” said Raj Kumar Chhetri, spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal. “It will start from Tuesday.”

The carrier will operate two weekly flights on Tuesdays and Saturdays with 158-seat Airbus A320s. The flight will arrive at Tribhuvan International Airport at 9.40am and depart from Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo at 10.40am.

According to the Nepalese civil aviation regulator, passengers must provide proof of hotel reservation during 7 days of quarantine before boarding the flight to Nepal. Travelers will need a negative PCR test report for Covid-19. The test must be carried out 72 hours before arrival.

The starting fare, according to the airline’s record, starts from $ 599 one-way.

According to travel agencies in Kathmandu, Nepalese traveling to Saudi Arabia and other work destinations in the Middle East mainly booked flights due to relatively low airfares compared to other airlines.

“We aim to promote the Buddhist pilgrimage between the two countries once the Covid-19 situation becomes normal,” said Deepak Mainali, director of Zenith Travels, the airline’s general sales agent in Kathmandu.

Air tickets to Australia and Japan will also be relatively cheaper, he said, as the airline also expects transit passengers.

According to Sri Lanka’s travel protocol, fully vaccinated travelers are not required to remain in quarantine. They are required to stay in a certified safe and secure hotel until the PCR test on arrival is completed [for 24-48 hours]. Once tested negative, vaccinated travelers can leave the bio-bubble.

The safe and secure hotel doctor will issue an “exit document” after checking the vaccination status and PCR test results.

Unvaccinated travelers should stay in a certified safe and secure hotel for the first 15 days of the visit and undergo a PCR test on arrival. Travelers will undergo the second PCR test after 14 days and will be able to exit the bio-bubble after obtaining a negative test result.

Direct air links between Kathmandu and Colombo had resumed in October 2016. Himalaya Airlines had been authorized to connect Colombo since the 1980s. However, the flight was suspended in less than a year due to low passenger volume.

The national carrier Nepal Airlines, in its previous avatar as Royal Nepal Airlines, operated direct flights to Colombo in the 1980s. But the carrier suspended operations following an armed movement of the Tigers to liberate Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sri Lanka.

Nepal and Sri Lanka have been discussing air connectivity since the end of the LTTE armed movement in Sri Lanka in May 2009. The two countries signed an air service agreement the same year.

Plans to establish direct flights on the Kathmandu-Colombo route were revived at the 18th Saarc Summit held in Kathmandu in November 2014.

Subsequently, the Sri Lankan government formally requested permission to operate daily flights between the two countries with the Colombo-based carrier Mihin Lanka planning to start services. In March 2015, the Ministry of Tourism issued an operating license to the carrier. But the services offered did not take place.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Tourism, in 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic, Nepal received 1.2 million international tourists. Among them, visitors to Sri Lanka were 55,869, a sharp drop from 69,640 in 2018.

Government statistics show that 97.5% of Sri Lankan visitors entered Nepal by land from Bhairahawa to visit Buddhist sites in the nearby town of Lumbini.


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