By Laxman Kafle Kathmandu, Aug. 31: The number of air passengers declined significantly in the fiscal year 2020/21 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the annual progress report of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), the number of passengers in international flights dropped by 73.27 per cent and the number of passengers in domestic flights fell by 59.46 per cent in the last fiscal year.
The number of international passengers was 4.138 million in 2019 which tumbled to 1.105 million in 2020. Similarly, the number of domestic passengers plummeted to 1.292 million in 2020 from 3.188 million in 2019. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) estimates that passenger flow declined by about 74 per cent in international flights and 50 per cent in domestic flights in the Asia-Pacific region due to COVID-19. It further projects a decline of 67 to 75 per cent of international passengers and 20 to 30 per cent of domestic passengers in 2021.
Revenue shrinks by 72% With the decrease in passengers, the revenue of CAAN has also declined. CAAN stated in the progress report that its revenue fell 43 per cent and 72 per cent in the fiscal years 2019/20 and 2020/21 respectively. Revenue of CAAN stood at Rs. 2.95 billion in the last fiscal year which is 72 per cent less than the revised revenue of Rs. 10.54 billion for the fiscal year 2019/20.
Capital expenditure only 37% CAAN’s capital expenditure also remained low in the last fiscal year. Since the pandemic and the subsequent restrictions stalled work on various development projects being implemented by the authority, its capital expenditure also came down. Of the Rs. 30.64 billion allocated for capital expenditure by the aviation regulatory body in the last fiscal year 2020/21, only Rs. 11.36 billion was spent.
Furthermore, the report stated that the projects related to the development of airport infrastructure being implemented with investment from the government of Nepal and loan assistance from donors have been repeatedly pushed back due to the restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The progress report of CAAN stated that the renovation work of the international terminal building and the internal terminal building has completed as per the plan to develop Tribhuvan International Airport as a boutique airport. The total number of airports in Nepal now stands at 54. Out of them, 37 airports have blacktopped runways. However, only 35 of 54 airports are in operation. Currently, Tribhuvan International Airport is the only international airport in the country. Two more international airports, Gautam Buddha International Airport and Pokhara International Airport, are under construction.