Lukla Flight Diversion During Peak Season

Lukla Flight Diversion During Peak Season

Lukla houses a dream of an airport. If you were to take the epithet of “the world’s most dangerous airport” tied to Lukla too literally, one might think of it as a “nightmare” instead of a dream. But the ones who’ve been to this STOLport perched atop a stretch of land acquired by the famed climber Hillary say that the airport is worth all the thrill of getting there.

As a result, thousands of trekkers and travelers take this flight each year. However, in light of so many passengers wanting to get to Lukla, there’s a different question that sometimes can irk travelers: “Do flights to Lukla get diverted in the peak season?”

Flights to Lukla in the peak season

Nepal’s Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) is, domestically as well as internationally, the most well-connected airstrip in the country. Flights from Kathmandu to Lukla take place regularly, barring weather disruptions. Given that Lukla is at the heart of the trek to Everest Base Camp and helicopter tours in this region, flights to the aerial gateway of Everest start early in the morning.

However, the weather in Lukla can go awry after the plane has taken off from TIA. In such cases, flights either track back to Kathmandu or land at Phaplu Airport before taking off to Lukla once the weather is good.

Tenzing Hillart Airport

Cancelations and Diversions of Lukla Flights

In mountainous areas such as Lukla, pockets of clouds can develop over the skies in no time, leading to regular cancelations of flights during off-seasons. We see a flurry of cancellations during the monsoon. Lukla Airport can be snow-leaden in the winter, making flights (and treks/travels) to the Everest region difficult.

The two other seasons- spring (from March to May) and autumn (from October to December)- are when most people choose to visit the Everest region. These are the very seasons when a maximum number of flights are diverted from Kathmandu.

Reasons for flight diversion

TIA once held the rather curious distinction of being the only international airport in the world with a single runway. The solitary runway means that the airport can handle only a limited number of flights. So when, in the peak trekking seasons to the Everest Base Camp, thousands of passengers are vying for a flight to Lukla, handling so many passengers becomes next to impossible.

Besides, the passenger terminal at the domestic section of TIA isn’t capacious enough to handle the exorbitant number of travelers seeking to reach the Everest region.

Where is the Lukla flight diverted to?

Flights to Lukla are diverted to Ramechhap, a district approximately 132 kilometers by road from Kathmandu. Ramechhap houses the Ramechhap Airport, aka Manthali Airport, from which flights to Lukla take place in cases of diversion.

This diversion loosens the traffic congestion of flights to Lukla during the peak season. One could get to Ramechhap Airport in a 4-5 hours drive from Kathmandu. So, if you want to catch an early morning flight to Lukla from Ramechhap, you can either take a private vehicle from Kathmandu around 3 a.m. or get to Ramechhap a day prior to the flight. But remember, you will get basic hotels and accommodation at Ramechhap.

How to prepare for a Lukla flight diversion?

Flights get diverted to Ramechhap, primarily during peak seasons. In off-seasons, such as the winters, one would find it very difficult to find lodge-owers in the Everest region, as the cold can make ordinary life difficult. So, problems related to air traffic to the Everest region (and, therefore, the diversion) are virtually non-existent during the winter season. A similar case for the paucity of flights to Lukla could be made for the monsoon season, too.

During the peak seasons, traveling to Ramechhap is quite a smooth journey. The roads aren’t obstructed, and one can find places to accommodate. As flights from Ramechhap to Lukla can be canceled due to bad weather, one should be prepared for such delays as well.

This is where carrying extra cash comes in handy. Having a flexible itinerary is also helpful. Both of these allow much calmer travel to Lukla.

How can we avoid a diversion?

The quicker you finalize the trip to Lukla, the less likely flights to Ramechhap will be diverted. If you book a trip to Lukla six months before your arrival, getting hold of tickets to Lukla from Kathmandu is easy.

In case you cancel your trip altogether, the ticket fees will be deducted while receiving a refund.


Karan Bhatta

Karan Bhatta is a travel writer based in Nepal. He lived in the Khumbu region, teaching at Hilary School, for a year and contributed journalistic pieces from the Everest region. He has also reported from (and about) Annapurna Base Camp and Mardi Himal Base Camp. He is an instructor at a European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Part 147 school, where he teaches aerodynamics, human factors in aviation, and aviation legislation. He contributes his writings to many aviation news portals around the world and works as an aviation journalist at Global Air.