All STOL flights to and from Lukla will be conducted from Ramechap airport during peak season time, making Ramechap a base for all Lukla flights. This change in the flight base for Lukla flights is being introduced to ensure smooth flight operation without any air traffic and delays.
The peak season in Nepal for trekking and climbing is Spring (April to May) and Fall (Oct to Nov). During these four months, there are around 35 flights scheduled on average for Lukla every day. On April 03 2023, there were 57 flights to Lukla from Ramechap Airport.
Ramechap Airport, also known as Manthali Airport, is located in Manthali Municipality in the Ramechhap District of Nepal. Ramechap Airport, 130 km from Kathmandu, is a four hours drive from Kathmandu. The airport first became operational in October 1979. Situated at an elevation of 474 metres/1560ft, the airport has a 518-metre runway of an asphalt-concrete that is 520 by 20 meters and is oriented to 030 and 210 degrees
The airport is situated on the bank of the Tama Koshi River in Manthali, Ramechaap District and is the closest airport of the eastern region to connect Kathmandu.
A base for Lukla STOL flights
During the peak season time (Oct – Nov) and (April-May), there are around daily 35 flights scheduled for Lukla on average. On its single runway, Kathmandu Airport can accommodate more than 400 flights per day (Domestic and International flights). But in the case of air traffic and poor weather at Kathmandu airport, Small plane such as Twin Otters/Dorniers/LET L140 that flies to Lukla are forced to circle next to large international flights that are waiting to land.
As a result, a 35-minute Kathmandu flight from Lukla can last 1.5 hours, reducing the number of Lukla ferries before the mid-morning tailwind closes the airfield. To reduce this congestion and to ensure the smooth operation of Lukla flights without delays, the use of Ramechap Airport for Lukla flights was proposed.
The Ramechap Airport was initially used as an alternate airport for Lukla’s flight when the Kathmandu airport runway was undergoing maintenance repair works. Kathmandu Airport was closed for 10 hours every day back in the Spring of 2019 for runway repair works and at that time all flights to Lukla were re-routed from Ramechap Airport.
Kathmandu airport was briefly shut down for runway maintenance work and all the flights to Lukla were operating from Ramechap Airport.
The use of Ramechap airport for Lukla flights was not planned for a long time but after the spring of 2019, it turned out that Lukla flights were operating smoothly from this new base and the Kathmandu airport traffic congestion was reduced too. Ever since the use of Ramechap has been proposed for the peak season time.
2023 Lukla Flight Status
Currently, three airlines are operating the Lukla flights namely Tara Air, Summit Air and Sita Air with each airline having two aircraft lined up for Lukla flights only.
With the rise of tourists visiting Nepal now after the COVID pandemic, the number of trekkers going to Everest has increased too. Tourism has now picked up again since COVID halted it back in 2020 and 2021. Now with the increase in trekkers/climbers heading to the Everest region, the flight to and from Lukla is being operated from Ramechap airport. In 2019, when Kathmandu Airport’s sole runway was undergoing a repair process, all flights to Lukla were rerouted from Ramechap Airport to reduce traffic congestion.
Now onwards during the peak season time, Ramechap Airport will solely serve as a base for all STOL flights to Lukla. All flights to and from Lukla will be conducted from Ramechap Airport during peak season time.
Tentative dates for Ramechap Airport operation for Lukla flight:
Spring: March 25 to May 20
Fall: Sept 20 to Nov 20
Ramechap to Lukla flight experience
Even though it is difficult to travel to Ramechhap and the airport lacks even the most basic amenities, Ramechap airport is a more reliable alternative for Lukla flights. To begin with, the flight from Ramechhap to Lukla takes only 14 minutes as opposed to 35 minutes from Kathmandu. This implies that many flights may take off quickly and transport lots of visitors to Lukla if the weather is good. Even if the weather is fine in Lukla, planes in Kathmandu can frequently be delayed by air traffic right before takeoff, causing passengers to miss their chance to get to Lukla.
From Ramechap airport to Lukla airport, the flight time is only 14 minutes. Compared to the 35-minute flight from Kathmandu, Ramechap Airport allows a much shorter flight time to Lukla. Shorter flight time means more flights and thus the chances of cancellation and delays are very slim.
Chances of flight cancellation and delays at Ramechap airport
The chances of flights being fully cancelled are very low in the case of Ramechap Airport. Since Ramechap Airport will solely serve as a base for Lukla flights, the delays due to air traffic are low. The flights will operate smoothly without air traffic and delays unless the weather impedes the flight movements. The chances of flight cancellation and delays due to weather factors are still present even if you are flying from Ramechap, however, in the case of Ramechap if we have a slight improvement in the weather for a brief amount of time, the flights will be conducted as it will take only 14 mins to reach Lukla from Ramechap and vice versa.
How to get to Ramechap
Reaching Ramechap airport from Kathmandu will take a four to four hrs drive. Depending on your flight time you should arrive at the Ramechap airport 1 hour before the check-in process. From Kathmandu, Ramchap airport lies 130 km east. Since the road is a two-lane highway, it will take 4 hrs to reach Kathmandu. The road condition is good and the car/van/bus can easily reach the airport.
Hotel in Ramechap
Ramechap didn’t use to have any tourists visiting until all Lukla flights were rerouted from here. There are hotels close to the airport but keep your expectation low as the hotels are very basic with minimal facilities and services. These are mostly guesthouses built to cater to local tourists. Now with the rise in the number of tourists coming to Ramechap to catch their Lukla flights, new hotels are being built in Ramechap.
In case of flight cancellation at Ramechap Airport?
Weather conditions in the Himalayas can change rapidly, leaving the Lukla flights to be delayed for several hours and even cancelled for that day. This can lead to a change in our itinerary.
In the context of Ramechap Airport, the chances of flight cancellation and delays are very less compared to Kathmandu Airport. In case of flight cancellation at Ramechap Airport, we will either rebook your flight for the following day or attempt to get you on a chartered helicopter. Helicopter requires less visibility as compared to fixed-winged plane and can take off even when the fixed-winged planes are cancelled for that day. The exact cost for a helicopter flight depends on the number of people sharing the flight and also obviously the demand. Each helicopter can board 5 passengers and it can cost anywhere from USD 350 up to USD 500 per person. The cost for a helicopter flight will be extra and we will credit your plane fare in full amount in the event of cancellation.
Helicopter flight to and from Lukla
Ramechap Airport is only used for fixed-wing aircraft thus this new flight change doesn’t affect Helicopter flights. If you are flying to and from Lukla on a helicopter then you will not have to worry about this. Helicopter flights will be conducted from Kathmandu airport.