KATHMANDU: Two of the four new aircraft parking bays has come into operation at the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) on Thursday, taking the total number of bays to 11.

The two bays have been constructed to park inactive planes that have been occupying the existing bays and causing severe ground congestion at the country’s sole international airport which has been handling nearly 130,000 flights annually.

“It is located at the eastern side of the runway and can accommodate two wide-body aircraft like A330 and two ATR 72 sized aircraft. It will function as remote parking bays,” said Pratap Babu Tiwari, spokesperson at the airport. “Moreover, by the next four months, two more bays, currently under construction in the southern side of the runway will be made operational.” They can accommodate two wide-body aircraft.

The country’s sole international airport has been facing a severe crunch in aircraft parking space, leading to flight delays. The new parking bays are expected to significantly reduce congestion.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal has allocated more than Rs1 billion for the construction of the new parking bays.

The existing parking space at the airport can accommodate nine aircraft —three reserved for wide-body aircraft and the remaining for narrow-body aircraft.

As Nepal Airlines Corporation added two new jets and private carrier Himalaya Airlines started service with three jets, ground congestion has become severe due to the lack of adequate infrastructure in the airport.

Besides these four parking bays funded by the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, there are also plans to add nine more parking bays on the northern side of the airport under the TIA Air Transport Capacity Enhancement Project funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Tribhuvan International Airport continued its run of year-over-year passenger growth in 2018, marking yet another record year for the country’s sole international aerial gateway. The country’s saturated airport handled 7.19 million domestic and international passengers movement last year.

According to the airport, 4.34 million international passengers travelled through the airport last year. That marked an 11.70 percent increase over 2017. There were 2.84 million domestic passengers movement in 2018, up 19.22 percent from the 2017 figure.

There were a total of 129,511 flights over Nepali skies, with 74 percent of them being domestic flights.