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]
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.