Nepal plane crash: UAE residents change travel plans, avoid flying to Pokhara after fatal air accident

The quaint tourist destination, popular for extreme sports and hiking, got a brand-new international airport this month

Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

Nasreen Abdulla

Published: Wed 18 Jan 2023, 12:19 PM

Last updated: Wed 18 Jan 2023, 2:48 PM

Many UAE residents who were scheduled to visit the tourist city of Pokhara in Nepal are now reassessing their travel plans. Meenakshi Chakraborthy was due to fly to the Himalayan town in April this year to attempt the Annapurna Base Camp trek along with a group of friends.

“After the plane crash, everyone is hesitant,” she admitted. “There are 11 of us, and we are all rethinking the plan. We love Nepal, and many of our friends have done the trek before, but it is a little scary to think of flying into Pokhara so soon after such a massive accident.”

On Sunday, a Yeti Airlines turboprop carrying 72 people, including children, crashed just minutes before landing at the newly opened Pokhara International airport. The bodies of 71 people had been found before the search was called off on Tuesday evening as darkness fell. It is Nepal’s worst air disaster in 30 years.

Meenakshi, who began trekking with a group of friends in the UAE after Covid, said she had been looking forward to the trip. “I was supposed to go on the Annapurna trek last year, but I wasn’t able to because of work,” she said. “So this year, I was really excited because I have been to Pokhara, and it is a beautiful city. Now I am in doubt.”

Meenakshi with her family
Meenakshi with her family

Another UAE resident Animesh Verma who is scheduled to travel to Nepal later this year had decided to travel from Kathmandu to Pokhara by road even before the accident.

“I had done my research, and I knew how unreliable air travel is in the country,” he said. “Most planes used in Nepal are not allowed into European air space. I didn’t want to take the risk, so I decided to either take a deluxe bus or book a car. It would take me about 6 to 8 hours to get there, but no amount of convenience is worth risking your life. Now, I feel like I made the right decision after the accident.”

Meenakshi Chakraborthy. Photos: Supplied
Meenakshi Chakraborthy. Photos: Supplied

Checkered history of air travel

Air travel in Nepal has a checkered history, with six plane crashes in the last ten years. Pilots have spoken about the challenges of flying and landing in the country with its rugged, mountainous terrain. The country, home to 8 of the world’s 14 peaks, also faces sudden weather changes due to its geography.

Meenakshi, who visited the country in 2017, has experienced this first hand. “My husband and I had booked a flight tour of the Himalayan peaks,” she said. “Within 10 minutes of taking off, the flight landed back because of inclement weather. We were only able to see one peak.”

Beautiful town

Pokhara, which is the second biggest town in Nepal after Kathmandu, is popular for extreme sports and hiking. Dubai resident Shehna Nazir and her family, who visited Pokhara a few years ago, said it was a picturesque town. “We enjoyed the scenic beauty of Pokhara,” she said. “People were extremely friendly. My husband did paragliding, and it was a town we had hoped to revisit sometime in the future. But now, I am not so sure about it.”

Shehna with her children
Shehna with her children

According to Meenakshi, who has also been paragliding in Pokhara, the quaint little town has much to offer. “It is nestled between the Annapurna range and is beautiful in terms of nature with the Seva lake right in the middle,” she said. “The people are really nice. Tourism is one of its main sources of income. It saddens me that the people might suffer because of the drop in tourism after this crash.”

The town, which was only accessible by domestic flights, got a brand-new international airport this month. Inaugurated on January 1, the Pokhara international airport was expected to handle over one million passengers a year.


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