Although Nepal’s airlines have weathered the pandemic and remained airworthy, there are concerns about whether Covid has removed forever the magic and the romance of flight. It is hard to believe that it was only a century ago that the first heavier-than-air humans defied gravity and took to the skies.
And just look at how far we have come since then. Modern airliners offer the epitome of luxury and comfort: seats equipped with Shiatsu backside massage, high speed internet, and futsal on the upper deck. Meanwhile in Economy, eco-friendly airlines now offer free fully-biodegradable family-size barf bags.
Modern aviation is governed by the Vienna Convention as well as by Newton’s Second Law of Thermodynamics which states that the most garrulous gentleman from the Subcontinent, with odoriferous socks and a sneezing fit, must occupy the seat next to you on the 16-hour flight to Chicago.
On a red-eye to Europe, the bulkhead bassinet will invariably have a baby who wails non-stop right across the air space of all five ex-Soviet Central Asian republics.
In these troubled times, we have to find ways to re-inject awe and wonder to the experience of flying, which is why we are chuffed to hear that Nepal’s brand new Minister of Vermiculture, Marxism and Space Cadets has tried to ensure just that with some bold decisions.
One of the first things he announced after swearing himself in was that once-Royal Nepal Airlines has been granted an ICAO license to carry dangerous goods. (If you don’t believe me, google him.) I am not sure a national flag carrier should necessarily be proud that its aircraft now carry hazardous cargo. But, hey, it also shows that we are not a nation of cowards. Nims Dai Was Born In Nepal.
The resumption of free beer service on the Delhi shuttle is another proud accomplishment that will restore RA to the glory days of the Dakota, when passengers were allowed to board with one goat each as carry-on luggage on flights from Bharatpur to Palungtar provided it did not exceed the dimensions of the overhead rack.
In the Covid era, there are other steps the Civil Aviation Authoritarians of Nepal (CAAN’T) have taken to revive the sheer thrill of flying. Passengers are not allowed to use toilets even if the 14 minute fright from Simara has to circle for one hour to land in Kathmandu due to air traffic congestion. Imagine the sheer suspense and excitement!
It has also introduced monkeys into the domestic terminal to remind passengers about the primates we are all descended from.
By allowing wild boars and jackals to cross the runway at Nepalganj, airport management has added another magical dimension of mystique to the miracle of flight.
And we have just heard that pilots are also doing their bit to re-introduce a sense of amazement and surprise to domestic aviation. Recently, they transported unsuspecting Janakpur-bound passengers to Pokhara instead.