Tourists stranded in Nepal on last flights out

British charter company Titan Airways at Kathmandu Airport on Wednesday on the first of its two ferry flights this week. Photo: BRITISH EMBASSY

Foreign embassies in Kathmandu are flying out the last remaining of their nationals stranded in Nepal after the country went into lockdown, even as the government extended a ban on international and domestic flights till 30 April.

Since international flights were stopped on 24 March, there have been 25 chartered ferry flights that flew in empty to take out 3,748 tourists and expats back to Europe, United States, Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia. 

On Wednesday alone, some 560 foreigners stranded in Nepal for nearly three weeks were flown out, including the first ferry flight for British nationals. Korean Air is flying to Kathmandu take South Koreans still stuck in Nepal at the end of the spring climbing season in the Himalaya.

‘Glad to have helped a full flight of 250 British nationals leave today to go home on our charter. Now working on helping 250 more people get home on Friday,’ British Ambassador to Nepal Nicola Pollitt tweeted on Wednesday.

Embassy sources said the delay for the rescue was because British nationals were scattered all over Nepal, and the national lockdown made it difficult to collect everyone in Kathmandu for the flights. The UK charter company Titan Airways brought a Boeing 767 to fly out the Britons via Dubai on Wednesday, and the plane is flying back on Friday to take the rest.

The Netherlands Embassy flew its nationals to Kuala Lumpur last week where it had collected other Dutch nationals to join a ferry flight to Amsterdam. Malaysia sent a plane to rescue its tourists, and the Australian Embassy chartered a Nepal Airline aircraft to take 270 Australians and New Zealanders to Brisbane on 1 April.

Despite the ferry flights there are reports of dozens of European and American tourists who preferred to stay on in Jomsom, Pokhara, Manang and Khumbu. Local media reports quoted some of them as saying that they felt safer being in Nepal.

Qatar Airways also operated another positioning flight on Wednesday with an Airbus 330 for remaining Germans and other European nationals, including Ukrainians. This was the fourth repatriation flights organised by the German Embassy since 24 March since when 800 Germans and 300 Europeans have been sent home.

German tourists and Embassy staff at Kathmandu Airport on Wednesday on the fourth and last repatriation flight for Europeans stranded in Nepal. Photo: GERMAN EMBASSY
German tourists stuck in Kathmandu for three weeks arrive at Kathmandu airport for a flight on Qatar Airways to Munich via Doha on Wednesday. Photo: GERMAN EMBASSY

More than three thousand Germans had come in the first three months of the year during the peak trekking season in Nepal. Many were full praise for the hospitality shown by hotels, restaurants, drivers and guides, and travel companies showed to them while waiting for their flights. 

Said German ambassador to Nepal Roland Schäfer: “I am very grateful to those who did not let my fellow Germans down. We got great cooperation from the Minister of Foreign Affairs who called me personally, and from his colleagues who were the first port of call for us.” 

Schäfer added that the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, Police and staff at Qatar Airways worked overtime to organise the logistics to bring the stranded tourists to Kathmandu, and open the airport for the ferry flights.

He added that the Germany aid agency GIZ would have liked to bring test kits and other medical equipment needed in Nepal on the ferry flights, but it is not possible. He added: “In the current turmoil, the producer was unable to get them ready on time and bring them to Doha. GIZ will now have to procure them in China and ship them to Nepal from there.” 


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