tribhuvan international airport kathmandu nepal

Kathmandu’s (and Nepal’s) Tribhuvan: One of the World’s Most Hated Airports (!)

We agree with CNNgo’s assessment. We also agree with what they have said at the end of their note on Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan: Never mind. The city’s markets and surrounding mountains are lovely. These photos, taken on 11 Nov, are the evidence. Pics by Dinesh Wagle [More photos at the end of this post]

tribhuvan international airport kathmandu nepal
Can you see a plane? Spot the Thai Airways logo. And the airport's international terminal building…

CNNgo recently put Tribhuvan in a list of 10 “world’s most hated airports” along with JFK, LAX and Heathrow. Kathmandu’s (and Nepal’s) only international airport joined in notoriety with those of New York, Los Angeles and London (and Paris too).

For a small airport in a pretty country, Tribhuvan has it all: the interminable weather delays of Boston Logan, the shoddy restroom maintenance of a Glasgow sports bar, the departure board sparsity of McMurdo Airfield and the chronic chaos of a kids’ soccer match.

Some airport improvements have been underway for the Visit Nepal 2011 tourism campaign, including things most passengers don’t much care about (e.g., the new helicopter base).

The most serious beefs with Nepal’s only international airport revolve around its primitive yet officious check-in procedure, starring a roulette wheel of underpaid security agents.

“Departure is an endless game of body searches and silly questions,” notes one passenger.

“Those who didn’t have their e-tickets printed out had to argue their way in,” says another, who was checked seven times and scolded for not having a baggage tag on a carry-on before eventually boarding.

Never mind. The city’s markets and surrounding mountains are lovely.

That made a front page item in the country’s most influential and top selling newspaper yesterday. That is because many Nepalis also share the assessment of CNNgo and countless other travelers and CNNgo’s inclusion of Tribhuvan in their “admittedly unscientific list”. Passengers are harassed not only by immigration officials but also by taxi drivers. And it’s not just foreigners or first time visitors.  As recently as in October a Nepali woman was forced to pay Rs. 100,000 bribe to a senior airport immigration official. The lady not only paid the said amount but also captured the details of the incident in her cell phone video. She sent the video to the Prime Minister’s office later.

The anti-graft body Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) has started probe into the case following complaints and video record provided online by the bribe-giver. Complaints lodged at the CIAA and the Office of the Prime Minister accuse Purna Bahadur Basnet, a senior immigration officer at TIA, of taking Rs 100,000 from Dichin Doma Sherpa, a Nepali national living in the United States, prior to her departure from Nepal. Sherpa lodged the complaints after having to pay the amount without a valid reason. The official allegedly forced Sherpa to pay the money by creating an unnecessary hurdle over the documents she needed to produce before immigration officials prior to her departure. When forced, Sherpa paid the bribe but tactfully recorded all his activities during the transaction. The video was sent to the PMO and CIAA demanding action against Basnet.

Tribhuvan made international headline (Nepal bans pockets to stamp out bribe-taking at airport) in 2009 when Nepal’s anti-corruption agency, frustrated by its inability to control corruption at the airport, ordered the government to provide pocketless trousers to corrupt airport officials.

Nepal’s anti-corruption authority is clamping down on bribe-taking at the country’s main airport by ordering staff to wear pocketless trouser.

The authority said it was issuing the garments to all officials after uncovering widespread corruption at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport.

Ishwori Prasad Paudyal, spokesman for the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority, said: “We sent a team to observe the growing complaints about the behaviour of airport authorities and workers towards travellers and we discovered that the reports were true.

“So we decided that airport officials should be given trousers with no pockets. We have directed the ministry of civil aviation to implement our order as soon as possible. We believe this will help curb the irregularities.”

Mr Paudyal said investigators had observed theft as well as bribe-taking by airport officials, who would lose their jobs if the situation did not improve.

His comments came a day after Nepal’s new Prime Minister Madhav Mumar Nepal expressed fears that corruption was tarnishing the airport’s reputation.

Nepal’s tourism industry employs around 300,000 people in one of the world’s poorest countries.

The landlocked Himalayan nation attracted a record 550,000 foreign visitors in 2008, two years after a peace deal that ended the decade-long Maoist insurgency.





19 responses to “Kathmandu’s (and Nepal’s) Tribhuvan: One of the World’s Most Hated Airports (!)”

  1. Khimdurga Avatar

    Yes, I do not agree that Tribhuwan Airport is the most hated one, with the comparison with other developed countries it’s definitely uncomfortable but we should try to make it more good. There could not more possibilities to make it more beautiful, we should think about that “how it could be a international airport?” it’s related to every Nepali people so, it’s our responsibility to talk about it.

  2. Abhishek Avatar

    Lovely Pics, I never knew you could see snow capped mountains from Kathmandu : )

  3. Hated Airport and the Mighty Himalayas #Nepal #Travel #Tribhuvan | Wagle Street Journal Avatar

    […] A few days ago clouds disappeared from above the green hills of Kathmandu valley providing us the stunning view of the mighty Himalayas that overlooked the airport. Fliers must have seen those snow-capped mountains from close and […]

  4. […] Dinesh Wagle explains why Kathmandu's Tribhuvan Airport is one of the most hated airports in the world. Tweet […]

  5. tarasj Avatar

    always in worst list ,omg when will this series come to an end

  6. Motiram Phuyal Avatar

    In some manner we have to be proud of it all because we are at last compared with some Airports of developed countries. In other matters we could not be compared with them. So be happy!… …

  7. marjolaine Avatar

    HAHA DO NOT AGREE, I love it have many cherished memories of how I made corrupt customs officers turn red faced, how I landed in our precious Nepal. Small and beautiful.

    The chaos of a kids soccer math is ALL over Nepal. Hated for me are New York where they shouted at me, my own Schiphol where they REALLY control and make you waste beauty creams and so on, even HEathrow the shoes off and the eternally lost suitcases in red tape.

    I love Tribuvhan but could they stop chinese from getting in and help Tibetans?

  8. Avatar

    Don’t get sad about getting in the list. It is nothing new for anyone who travels in and out of Nepal. Let us hit the bulls eye and solve the problem and not hide it. Let us find a way to force our leaders and bureaucrats to take meaningful steps to improve the condition of TIA.

  9. bikesh Avatar

    I don’t think there is any problem with our Tribhuwan airport.The standards that our country meets maintains the same there is no issue to it…But the maintenance,controllability,management is lacking around!!!!

  10. Treks in Himalayas in India Avatar

    The Himalayas, home of the snow, is the most impressive system of mountains on the earth, and for centuries the setting for epic feats of exploration and mountain climbing / treks.

  11. Kay in India Avatar

    I completely agree about the airport assessment. It’s terrible and completely archaic. The only worse international airport I’ve been to is probably the Chennai International Airport–though that’s going to get a major re-fubrishing in the next year.

    I think Nepal could seriously take a leaf out of Sri Lanka’s book–another country that relies heavily on tourism and has been through a bloody civil war that’s just recently ended. It’s very clean, has great roads, and the airport is small but cute and clean and most of all, modern.

  12. rameshksharmaEr. Ramesh Kumar Sharma Avatar

    Toilets are not well maintained. In Domestic Airport Tourists have to wait long hours for flights. They can not use any toilets as there are not sufficient, clean and usable toilates. At least while preparing for the Tourism Year, Government and Tourism Board authorities should have taken minimum efforts on improving airport service management and small infrastructure works.

  13. Deva Avatar

    The entire attitude of the staff of the airport is faulty. Starting from the to the bottom, no one really is in charge. Things are just left to sort themselves out no matter what happens. Security staff are posing as custom agents for some unknown reason; the cleaning staff care a fig about cleanliness of the interiors and the toilets. In short everything is wrong, yet no one cares, lease the responsible guys of the airport. The political party bosses are only interested in showing off their new found elevated status and could’nt acre a damned about the going ons of the airport.

  14. Nirmal Devkota Avatar
    Nirmal Devkota

    should be privatized……thats the only option which is left now.

  15. (@Slickdealsfan) Avatar

    kathmandu airport immigration officers seem to be thieves . always gives you that stupid look and stares at you for 10 mins and takes their time to see if they should rob your money.

  16. bhushan nepal Avatar
    bhushan nepal

    Kathmandu airport now again start to send woman foreign workers in oman cleaner visa but just transiting in Sarjah and is going either to Iraq or to syria from 01/08/2013 by paying bribe of 50,000 each to Immigration and police by brokers of some travel agencies in kathmandu.

  17. handshake22g Avatar

    So does these things makes Nepal airport a hated one

  18. vipin diwan Avatar
    vipin diwan

    Yesterday I returned India from Kathmandu to delhi. I faced misbehavior of HIMALAYAN COFFEE JAVA’s staff but nobody can help me even tourist police also try to help me but no results. Make system strong so that pessenger feel safe

  19. Khagendra Avatar

    TIA authorities and the Ministry of Civil Aviation bosses…great going guys with this Turkish Airlines fiasco! You make all Nepali’s very proud! Nothing more really left to prove, huh?

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