Sunday, 7 September 2008

Bhutan : Drukair set to spread its wings

4 September, 2008 - As Drukair celebrated its Silver Jubilee on Monday, September 1, the national airline has plans to soar higher by including more routes and destinations.

Managing director Tandin Jamso said that Drukair will start its Paro-Bagdora-Bangkok route from mid 2009, while it is looking into the possibility of flying to the USA by using partner airlines from Bangkok.

“We’re also planning to increase our routes by improving interline agreements with our airline partners so that any Bhutanese passenger can go to any other destination besides what Drukair offers today,” said Tandin Jamso. Today Drukair’s interline partners are Thai airways, Bangkok air, Bangladesh air, Delhi air and Kathmandu airways.

“At the moment our airline’s not compatible with other airlines such as Thai. We need to have interline booking system,” said Tandin Jamso.

Drukair’s plan to launch a service from Katmandu to Bombay last year was shelved because of increases in fuel price and airport charges in Bombay. Drukair also slashed its flight frequency to Bangkok, but Tandin Jamso said that, by October this year, Druk Air will have seven flights a week to Bangkok.

Commending the services of the national airline, His Royal Highness, Dasho Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck, in his keynote address, said that Druk Air has played a pivotal role in the nation’s development. “It opened landlocked Bhutan’s doors to air transportation, which has not only benefited our economy, but also strengthened our sovereignty,” he said.

“The benefits of urgent travel will continue to matter tremendously to a landlocked population for whom washed-out roads, mule trails and walking for hours to school remain a reality. For landlocked Bhutan, the air transportation link is a vital necessity that can’t be compromised for economic considerations alone.”

His Royal Highness also awarded certificates to former managing directors and other staff, including an Indian luggage loader based in Kolkata, who has served Druk Air since it started in 1983. The new dress for cabin crew was also launched during the celebration.

Cabinet ministers, senior government officials, the chairperson of the Druk Holding and Investment, and senior members of the armed forces joined the celebration on Monday. From its modest start in 1983, Drukair has ferried about 130,000 passengers in 2007 compared to 3,000 in 1983.

The change in the country’s only airline is best described by loader Saltu Choudhary, who came to collect his award. “From a dozen bags in 1983, I handle hundreds of baggage every time Drukair lands in Kolkata,” he said.

Druk Air was founded in 1981 by a Royal Proclamation.

By Tenzin Namgyel

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