Commuters disappointed with high flight cancellation rate at Yonphula domestic airport

Although most people in the east would not mind travelling by air to avoid the 500 plus kilometers of treacherous road to Thimphu and the western part of the country, the Yonphula domestic flights has turned out to be a big disappointment to travelers.

From the three domestic airports, Yonphula has so far recorded the highest number of flight cancellations due to bad weather. A total of 22 flights have been cancelled owing to bad weather conditions since the national airline, Drukair, resumed its domestic flights to Trashigang on November 11, 2017 till date.

A total of four flights have been cancelled and one flight was delayed due to bad weather in the month of June.

Sonam, a Sherubtse College student, said that she has not travelled through air once in her life. During summer vacation, she wanted to travel via Yonphula to Paro but her flight was cancelled due to unfavorable weather.

Summer monsoon has affected the only domestic airport connecting the extreme eastern districts of Bhutan.

Monsoon rains have not only affected the flights connecting the eastern districts of Bhutan but have further worsened road conditions by creating landslides and muck.

Meanwhile, irregularity in the flights operations in Trashigang has left many passengers disappointed. Commuters visiting eastern parts of Bhutan, students of Younphula and Sherubtse colleges and the residents of east have been affected the most.

Unexpected flight cancellations have deterred most of the residents from opting for the mode of transport.

Sonam Phuentsho, a resident from Trashigang said most of the residents would prefer to travel by air even though it is expensive. “People prefer air transport for safety and short travel time but if such cancellations continue, it is unacceptable.”

Chimi Wangmo a third year student of Sherubtse College said that most of the students prefer to travel by flights as the road condition worsen at this time of the year. “As most of the flights get cancelled, we have no other choice than to commute through road. It is dangerous to travel by road but there is no other option.”

The media focal person of Drukair, Jamayang Choden, said that the airliner has to bear huge amount of losses whenever there is a delay or cancellation of flights as they have to make refunds to the affected commuters. “It is a natural phenomenon and there is little that we can do to prevent it nonetheless we try to minimize delays and cancellations.”

Considering these factors, Drukair has decided to operate with an additional aircraft (ATR42-600) which will be operated on lease. Drukair has signed an agreement with ATR for the purchase of the aircraft at a cost of Nu 1.1bn and the new ATR will join the fleet by 2019.

The national airliner Drukair operates thrice a week at Younphula domestic airport in Trashigang.

Jigme Wangchen from Trashigang