Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 15 November 2019

Executive travel: Etihad a smooth option from Kathmandu to Abu Dhabi

It is reassuring for this traveller to be flying in an Etihad Airbus A320 from Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International – an airport known for its difficult landing.
An Etihad Airbus A320 touches down on Abu Dhabi airport. Andrew Parsons / The National
An Etihad Airbus A320 touches down on Abu Dhabi airport. Andrew Parsons / The National

Anyone who has used Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport knows that while functional, it isn’t going to be winning any awards for beauty, service or facilities any time soon. On top of this, because of its location, it’s a notoriously difficult airport for pilots to land at. All of which makes flying Etihad to and from here a more reassuring experience than normal.

After battling through the large crowds waiting to get into the airport, check-in for my flight to Abu Dhabi begins three hours before departure. Luggage is weighed on rather old-fashioned scales and then I proceed upstairs to the equally tired-looking immigration desks, beyond which is an uninspiring selection of shops and cafes. The Radisson Executive lounge is by no means luxurious, but it seems the best there is. Conveniently there are bathrooms inside.

My flight is delayed by about an hour and I can see from the FlightRadar24 app this is at least partially due to congestion at the airport – as I can see the incoming Etihad flight circling for some time before landing.

The Airbus A320 has 16 seats in business class, in a two-two formation. Unfortunately because it’s short-haul, the seats don’t lie flat. I’m sitting by the window in the front row, which has extra legroom. Because the flight isn’t full, the cabin attendant helpfully suggests that the man sitting next to me relocate to the back row, so I have more space.

While the legroom is a plus, there’s no luggage storage space in these seats and the entertainment system has to be pulled out of the arm rest. This makes it hard to extract yourself from your seat if you are watching a film with food in front of you.

However, the food made up for it. The salmon gravlax and paneer lababdar I had for dinner was spot on.

Despite my concerns about the airport, take-off was smooth and after some minor turbulence the flight landed on time in Abu Dhabi.

q&a direct link saves time

Rosemary Behan expands on Etihad Airways’ direct service between Abu Dhabi and Kathmandu:

When did this route launch and how many flights are there per week?

Etihad’s flights to Kathmandu were launched in December 2008, starting at four per week and there are now two flights each way per day, seven days a week.

How much do tickets cost?

Economy return fares cost from Dh1,980 return including taxes, and from Dh4,730 in business.

How long does the flight take?

Just over four hours, making it a great timesaver for those who would have previously had to transit in India. It is also the most convenient base for visits to nearby Bhutan, just an hour away.

How convenient are the flight timings?

From Abu Dhabi, the morning flight departs at 10.05am, which, if you allow for the time difference and the fact that it can take at least an hour to get through the airport because of visa queues and baggage procedures, will mean that you’ll get to your hotel in time for an early dinner. The disadvantage with this is that you land in rush hour. The later flight leaves Abu Dhabi at 2pm, landing in Kathmandu just before 8pm.

When is the best time to visit Nepal?

The peak tourist season runs from November to March, when there are generally clear skies and cooler weather. However, Gulf travellers can take advantage of much cheaper hotel rates and fewer crowds in the rainy summer season.

rbehan@thenational.ae

* The writer was a guest of the airline.

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Updated: July 21, 2017 06:49 PM

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