Phub Dem 

The airport in Bumthang caters to domestic flights only. However, it is undergoing a major makeover to cater to regional flights in future.

The runway is being resurfaced and extended and a new terminal building is almost complete.

The domestic airport, popular with tourists, is preparing for potential international connections.

The Department of Air Transport (DoAT) began the runway extension and resurfacing work in April and the work is expected to complete in October.

The runway project is worth Nu 240 million.

According to the director general of DoAT, Karma Wangchuk, the expansion work is to enhance the capacity of the aircraft and to increase its carrying capacity.

He said it was difficult for the aircraft to carry its full capacity during peak summer at present because of the runway area. “The carrying capacity of the domestic ATR is 40, but it can carry only 18 passengers during summer.”

The director general said that with the expansion of the runway by 500 metres, the capacity will increase by 14 to 18 passengers.

The construction of the terminal building funded by the Asian Development Bank is underway.

Karma Wangchuk said that the new terminal building was constructed bigger as a part of the department’s plans to establish infrastructures required to carry out international flights.

He said that having an infrastructure in place would be helpful if airlines make direct flights from regions such as Kathmandu, Kolkata, Guwahati and Bangladesh to Bumthang in the future.

Considering the prospect, he said that the terminal building was built to fit the international airport’s standards and to house immigration and customs office.

He said that DoAT would be ready with the required infrastructure and workforce if the airline company and government decide to open Bumthang for regional flights. “We have the air traffic controllers, security officials, fire-fighting trucks and other requirements.”

The work to construct the terminal building began in 2017 but it was delayed due to harsh winter in Bumthang, as no civil works could be carried out.

“By this month, DoAT will take over the terminal,” Karma Wangchuk said.

The airport used to be the busiest domestic airport in the country before the pandemic.