The new terminal will more than double the airport’s capacity to handle passengers 

Aviation: The new arrival terminal at Paro international airport was inaugurated by HRH Gyaltshab Jigme Dorji Wangchuck on November 9.

The arrival terminal was completed seven months ahead of schedule to coincide with His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo’s 60th birth anniversary celebrations. HRH Gyaltshab Jigme Dorji Wangchuck was accompanied by Ashi Yeatso Lhamo.

The new terminal, funded by the Indian government at a little over Nu 342.1 million, is expected to more than double the handling capacity of Paro airport which currently experiences severe congestion when it comes to aircraft and vehicle parking, and passenger handling.

The passengers of up to four flights can now be handled simultaneously.

The terminal’s arrival hall is more than double the size of the existing one and up to 16 immigration counters can be set up. Three baggage conveyor belts will also be available.

Two sections of the terminal have semitransparent roofs so sunlight can be utilized and usage of electricity lowered.

The terminal is expected to be opened for operations by mid-next month once the extended apron or parking area for aircraft is completed. The extension of the apron will increase Paro airport’s aircraft capacity from five to eight aircraft.

Department of Air Transport director, Karma Wangchuk, said that the aviation industry had progressed significantly since its “humble beginning” to today ensuring connectivity internationally as well as domestically. “For this, we thank His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, as the aviation pioneer of Bhutan.”

The director also thanked Their Majesties the King and Queen, and the government for taking the aviation to “greater heights” with the introduction of helicopter services.

He also thanked the Indian government for its continued support in expanding Paro airport, the Air Force Element based at Paro airport, and DANTAK.

Information and communications minister, DN Dhungyel, pointed out in his address that the inauguration of the terminal was the best way to celebrate His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo’s 60th birth anniversary when it comes to the “vital” aviation industry.

The minister pointed out that the aviation industry has had a major impact on the socio-economic growth of Bhutan, its international relations, health and education, and governance, among others in the three decades since its establishment.

Lyonpo DN Dhungyel said that the aviation industry today directly employs 800 people, with many more indirectly employed in aviation related services. He also pointed out that there are today three domestic airports and 52 helicopter landing sites, and a fleet of six Bhutanese operated fixed-wing aircraft, and one recently acquired helicopter, with another scheduled to be delivered in June, next year.

He also pointed out that Paro airport handled more than 260,000 passengers and 4,500 international flights, last year. Additionally, 263 domestic flights flew 3,000 passengers.

“Given the dramatic expansion that has taken place over the past three decades, the existing (Aviation) Act is being discussed by the current session of Parliament,” he said.

Information and communications secretary, Dasho Kinley Dorji, also emphasized how far the aviation sector has come since the first commercial flight in 1983.

“Not long ago, this area where we are sitting, was paddy fields,” he said. He recalled passengers sitting in the “grass” waiting for the 18-seater twin propeller Dornier aircraft to arrive from Kolkata.

Dasho Kinley Dorji also said that at the time many questioned why anyone would want to fly to Kolkata. “Now trying to get a seat … especially during the peak season is a nightmare,” he said.

The secretary said that an equally dramatic growth of the aviation industry is expected in the future.

Other senior officials attending the event included the economic affairs minister, Norbu Wangchuk, works and human settlement minister, Dorji Choden, and Indian ambassador Gautam Bambawale.

Gyalsten K Dorji, Paro