T he trend in international civil aviation these days is low-cost, no frills airlines like Ryan Air (pronounced “Lion Air” in Thailand).
Thank heavens that in Nepal, despite deregulation, our domesticated airlines haven’t stooped that low. Our carriers will never sacrifice friendly in-flight service to undercut rivals by getting into a suicidal price war. No sir, our airline cartel has opted to keep fares high and slash services instead.
It speaks volumes about our sense of commitment to comfortable and reliable air transportation that Nepal’s no-budget airlines would rather make passengers pay through their noses than provide them unnecessary luxuries while going from Point A to Point B.
When domestic flights first started in Nepal, passengers got to eat actual meals. As time went on, they got rid of the samosas, the next to go were peanuts, then they took away barf bags, and finally they got rid of the co-pilots.
Nepal is also one of the few places in the world where VIPs can take SUVs right up to the plane, but they have to first prove to security personnel on duty that they have contributed in some measure to ruining the country. Next time, ex-prime ministers should take the ramp bus because some of them look more airworthy than the aircraft they board.
For a time, airlines used to offer us the luxury of pre-flight cotton wool and candy (The cotton goes into your ear canal and the toffee goes into your alimentary canal, or is it the other way around?) But as a cost-cutting drive and to avoid further confusion on the 12-minute Kathmandu-Simara shuttle these days, they pass around chewing gum, which you are supposed to stuff into your ears after chewing, thus saving the airline industry lakhs of rupees a year.
Increasing fuel prices mean no-frill airlines are even less frilly, stripping their planes of everything except the bare minimum required to defy gravity. All seats have been taken off flights to and from Pokhara on Gundruk Class, but premium passengers on Royal Uneconomic Class can sit cross-legged on straw mats on the floor at the front of the cabin.
Toilets have been done away with, but a hatch is available for in-flight emergencies. (Not to be used while flying over open-defecation free districts of Nepal.) In the run-up to Dasain, goats will be allowed on board as carry-on baggage provided they do not exceed the dimensions of the overhead racks. If they do, the goats will have to be sacrificed on the spot prior to boarding.
“Ladies and gentlemen, in a few moments we shall be landing in Simara. Please stand in an upright position and hang on to the overhead straps. Please stow the gum you are chewing in your ear canals at this time. Thank you for choosing Fly-by-Night Airways.”