High flying


Domestic air services were formally launched yesterday, coinciding with our 104th National Day. Druk Air flew their ATR-42 from Paro to Yonphula to Bumthang and back to Paro. And Tashi Air’s Pilatus PC-12 flew from Paro to Bumthang and back. The lucky passengers in the inaugural flight included the Speaker, MOIC minister, Members of Parliament and senior civil servants.

So, after missing several ambitious deadlines, domestic air services have finally begun. Truth be told, I had my doubts. Having spent three years in Kanglung in the 1980s, as a student in Sherubtse College, I was all too familiar with the weather conditions in Yonphula. The Yonphula ridge, where the airstrip is located, seemed to be forever shrouded in mist. And when it wasn’t, strong winds seemed to stage a relentless attack on the ridge. Or it would just rain, continuously, for weeks on end.

But the government has done it. Domestic air services are now a reality. I’m happy. And I’m grateful that the government has succeeded in opening up Yonphula and Bumthang to air traffic. There’s no doubt that the air services to these areas will boost the economies of central and eastern parts of our country through increased tourist arrivals and investments in related areas.

So congratulations are in order, first and foremost to Lyonpo Nandalal Rai, the MOIC minister. Then to the Department of Civil Aviation. And to Druk Air. And Tashi Air. Domestic air travel is possible because of their hard work. Well done. And thank you.

Photo credit: BBS


Facebook Comments:


  1. I too would like to congratulate gov n people who worked for this successful launch….now, my only wish is, please make the fare reasonable n logical…it sounds crazy that domestic flight charges r more than international….tashi air n druk air should do the math whether it will be profitable to charge high n ground the flight or make cheaper n fly more…..

  2. Yes, Pazap I agree with you. The fare should be reasonable and logical so that many people and government officials can use the domestic flight.If the fare is too high people would still prefer going via road if it takes 2 days to reach Trashigang.

  3. yesterday we have witness the landing of 48 seater air bus Druk Air. it was a heart breaking to see the practicality of the reallity. every body was speaking to each other reallity come now. one of the village ealder said that we heard airoplane while we were small and our hair were black. now we are old and our hair white. It is dream come true. thanks to DPT govt. so it sign that govt had done one of their commitment after many postpontment.

    Nothing is impossible. hope to see another inuagural ceremony in Gelephu.

  4. Kudos to the government for showing dreams and moving forward to make these dreams a reality. However, we are yet to be convinced of the reasons for pricing the domestic sectors so highly. I am certain that government will look into the matter and come out with a solution which will eventually benefit the common Bhutanese men. Without revision of the tariff the dream to fly will always remain a dream for a common man. It hurts even more when we see that the foreigners and our own officials (privileged to fly on Tax Payers money) travel in comforts while the old man who saw the dream when he was child is still looking at sky with a hope of being there some day…may be…

    Just a thought…

  5. a few random thoughts..
    ..druk air & tashi air will benefit certainly..i hear home minister minjur dorji is building a hotel in the east, so he will benefit..
    but was the money & resorces used to put in place domestic air services a better option vis-a-vis safe drinking water, better road conditions, better hostels for rural students, more medicines available at hospitals as opposed to filling in prescriptions at pharmacies, more programs for youth & the disadvantaged sections of our society???
    how will it impact small businesses & hotels along the east-west highway who depend on tourists & travellers?
    will it reduce the number of days tourists spend in bhutan?
    how will tour operators now organize themselves if their guests choose to fly to either airport after a day in paro or thimphu – will they need 2 sets of guides & cars? if this increases their costs, will it mean a decrease in profit & therefore tax?
    should moic minister nandalal rai instead have spent effort & resources on the rti act instead, which would have a much greater impact on democracy, media & the bhutanese public?

  6. My order of congratulation unlike OL for making the domestic air service a reality within unimmaginable period of time is as follows:

    – DPT Government
    – Prime Minister
    – MoIC
    – DCA
    – Druk Air,
    – Tashi Air
    and all others……

  7. DOMESTIC AIRLINE IS A REALITY. Congratulations to DRUKair. Some of us BUMTHAPS (17 of us) will be the first pure Bhutanese commercial passengers on 22nd December flying to PARO from BUMTHANG. We are invited by YANGPHEL to play the historic archery match against thier team. We will be hosted 2 nights at ZHIWALING HOTEL. (THANK YOU). We call it historic since it is the first time in the history of Bhutan where an archery team has flown or will be flying to contest in an archery match. This is truly exciting. We will fly across Kikila, yotongla, pelela, lawala, and dochula in 20 minutes to be in Paro. It would have taken us 9 hours straight drive. THIS IS A MOMENT TO CELEBRATE. Thank you to all that make such things possible. The economy of Bumthang and the east will obviously soar and we are all thankful. KADINCHEY LA.

  8. With Honorable OL, let me congratulate MoIC, Civil Aviation, Druk Air and Tashi Air for making dream in to reality. Congratulation, Tashi Delek and Thank you all. We are now proud enough to say we have at-least 2 domestic airport currently, and soon 3.
    Regarding the fare, with the current fare, we the common people’s dream to fly over the sky once in the life time will remain as an dream.

  9. Jurme Loday says

    Yes, gov has done a good job with domestic airports. Congrats!

  10. Kelpazangla says

    Perhaps Drukair and Tashiair should have two levels of airfare. The currently set rate for Tourists and officials travelling on govt expenses and a lower level (around $100/$150 for Bumthang and Yonphula resepctively) for the common bhutanese citizens.

    Just a suggestion!

  11. 2 Os, should not only congrat the for what has happened during the reign of others – we expect that u make them do even better…but do not forget to peep through, what is happening behind the curtain, for making this happen.
    You would also be appreciated if PDP have had taken their chairs…all the best for 2013.

  12. I would rather walk from Paro to Bumthang or Yongphula than travel by the most expensive and scary airlines (Tashi and Druk air)compared to similar airlines operating at the same distance in similar difficult terrain. This is a daylight robbery at its worst and only passengers would be rich tourists, business men and government officials at government expenses. Added to this irrational airfare is a pollution of Bhutanese sky. People who say it will bring economic benefits are day dreaming, cos after few years Druk air and Tashi airlines may need government bailouts, and Baphlithang and Yongphula air fields will be become ghost fields.


  13. Thinlay la,
    With all due respect to you and your views. I would like to state that the Domestic air service is a boon to the people of Bhutan in many ways. The airfare is reasonable to begin with. 17 of us have arrived in Paro today to play archery. It may sound like a bunch of people with money but we are not as our income is mid level. It may sound like we have flown to have fun but we are getting two birds with one stone as we also are networking with hoteliers, tour operators and most importantly with guides as most of us are hoteliers while also having fun. I have absolutely no doubts the economy of the respective regions of Bumthang and Tashigang will definitely soar as the platform to do business is now established and business opportunities will definitely arise due to the flow of traffic in these regions that have the spending power. Our mouth is watering and we will prosper in many respects. WE will be a bunch of happy satisfied customers when we arrive back in Bumthang on 25th December.

    We thank our king, the government and the airlines for making this happen.

  14. Well, what will happen to Hoteliers and small souvenir shops on the way to Bumtha and Trashigang?? Will they go bust when tourists, business and government officials travel by air?


  15. sonam Penjor says

    For TRALLA,

    we know the fact, who owes the credit. You need not mention it to us. When there are still so many unanswered queries about Domestic Airport. Some day,
    1) if the citizens offer a very good fight back to the decision on Domestic Airport, will you still offer the credit to your mentioned list of admirer.
    2) Lets not hope that it happens, but incase if the two airlines with drew their rundown of losses, are you still going to offer your credit.

    Topden’s random thoughts are far wiser than you. And i can understand we need people like you too in our country.

    Cheers dude…………..

    Domestic flight shall definitely makes many jobless and bury business in losses in eastern part of Bhutan.

  16. I am confident that the businesses along the way will not be hampered since most tourists will travel one way by flight and then one way by road. So, the in between districts will not suffer. In fact, the traffic one way or the other will be vastly reduced particularly during the tourists season. Thanks la

  17. sonam Penjor says

    What type of traffic are you talking about Bumthap. A road, where at the maximum of 100 vehicles travel in that streth. Please do not be so childish or so smart that you pretend to be to talk about Bhutan’s traffic.
    And in your first post, you have mentioned clearly that you had wonderful flight and your mounth is watering, you need to be for the flight’s destination is your destination. It shows how selfish you are.
    BUMTHAP, you also said that you are going to prosper, you should for you are so single minded chap. Anyway m pretty sure that you have shown your community that you can fly. GOOD FOR YOU. SHOULD i address you as Dasho now.

  18. If only they change the name of the airport at Bumthang, the present name sounds rather weird!

  19. I respect Sonam Penjores view point but I don’t necesarily agree ! I am a tour guide residing in Bumthang hence my nick name Bumthap. I mentioned prosperity not only for myself to be guiding more tourists as tourism flourishes due to this domestic airline success. Not only me, the whole community like hotels, bars, restaurants, handicrafts vendors, farm houses, horse contractors, porters, trekking cooks, village helpers, etc etc will all benefit. I don’ have any doubts about it. I also meant traffic during the peak tourists months. Being a tour guide, I have experienced and seen quite a traffic between wangdiphodrang and Bumthang. The two stone quarry between wangdi and pelela is in total mess. They don’t maintain the roads and it is very precarious and scary. Not only this the speeding trucks with load coming down like roller coasters is of utmost concern. I worry that not all will be right with such scenario. It may just be a matter of time until a disaster takes place. I pray that it doesn’t. Lets hope the concerned authorities will look into this sooner than later.

    I am proud to have flown on this domestic flight and the fare was reasonable. I say this because if we drive ourselves, we have to fuel, eat along the way, and make some misc expenses. Besides the time saved. Flew in 25 minutes while a car ride may have taken me 12 hours with required stops. Not only me and the archers, there were three aums with us that flew too who traveled to Phuntsholing from Paro. The pleasant flight and the amount of time saved was irreplaceable. It was worth it, they said. So no hard feelings Sonam penjore la. It is the moment of truth of our economic prosperity and everyone will benefit eventually.

    Thank you for commenting. Cheers Bumthap

  20. sonam Penjor says

    Good to hear from BUMTHAP, if you have such a risky HIGH WAY, dont you think that we deserve to talk on that high way rather then turning our back and looking for other solution. If you have opted flying for that reason, what shall other people do when they cant effort to fly.
    I am coming back to the point, it is always better to think for the majority. You should take into account of our majority citizens, are they really going to use domestic flight, You can Fly, I may effort to Fly, Lyonchen and Senior Govt. officials may fly but do we all represent the majority. How about your own people of Bumthang.
    Domestic Flight is not for me neither for my country people, its for tourist man. Let’s ACCEPT it.

  21. Yes, lets talk about the risky highway which majority of our countrymen use. Infact, majority of the tourists will also be using that. The flight situation is not for everyone as you say but it is a great initiative and a great OPTION for those who need it. Connectivity is everything and we have one now as a choice. But I do agree with you, sonam, that our highway needs to get more attention. It is a reality that bites and we need to address it sooner than later. The owners of the stone quarry needs to be taken to task and made responsibility to maintain the road properly. The royalty for extracting any mineral like stone etc should be raised heftily and put into road maintenance. I am with you and everyone in improving the much needed infrastructure. No differences here. We need the good roads and our plea for the government to prioritize the improving such services.

  22. I think the government has got their priorities wrong and maybe in hindsight they will realize that they erred in pushing for airlines to operate domestic flights too soon. No where in the world would a country start domestic operations if it was for the sole purpose of promoting international tourism, if this was the idea, then it is certainly not going to work as it won’t be sustainable in the long run. Going by the fares quoted by the two operators, namely Druk Air and Tashi Air, it can be said that local Bhutanese travelers have been priced out of using these services. Most tour operators I know also seem to believ that even for international travelers, the fares quoted by the two airlines are too steep. That leaves us with the high end travelers that visit Bhutan through Aman and Uhma who are not that price conscious. Now, if the two companies do not bring in large numbers of visitors to use the domestic air services, then this venture is doomed to fail.

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