The airline has also introduced a frequent flyer programme and a mobile app 

Aviation: Tashi Air subsidiary, Bhutan Airlines, will provide 60 free seats for hospital patients requiring referral to Kolkata to commemorate the 60th Birth Anniversary of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, it was announced at an event to mark the private airline’s second anniversary of international services on Saturday.

HRH Ashi Kesang Wangmo Wangchuck was the chief guest at the event, which was also attended by HRH Ashi Deki Choden, and works and human settlement minister, Dorji Choden, among others.

“I’m proud to say that in a short span of just two years, we’ve made significant progress not just in providing safe and reliable aviation services but also an alternative choice of air travel in and out of the country for both Bhutanese and international travellers,” Bhutan Airlines chairman, Wangchuk Dorji, said in his address at the event.

“As one of the only two airlines operating in Bhutan, we will continue to provide efficient air travel to facilitate the growth of the tourism industry,” he said, also pointing out that tourism in terms of revenue is only second to the hydropower sector.

“As a gesture of deep respect and to commemorate the 60th Birth Anniversary of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, Bhutan Airlines would like to offer 60 seats for the sector Paro-Kolkata, for those patients referred by the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital for treatment outside Bhutan,” Wangchuk Dorji said.

Speaking to this paper, Bhutan Airlines CEO Phala Dorji said that while the airline was still in the red financially, it had chosen to support the government by offering the 60 free seats for patients. He said that the government is incurring heavy expenditure for referring patients to India and the airline felt such support should outweigh any other issues.

The airline also introduced a frequent flyer programme called Tashi Miles and a mobile application during the event.

As a member of the frequent flyer programme, travellers will be able to accumulate miles or points corresponding to the distance flown on Bhutan Airlines and the fare amount paid. The accumulated miles can then be redeemed for free tickets, class upgrades, and excess baggage allowance, among others. Miles can also be redeemed to stay at the Druk or Taj Tashi hotels.

The mobile application, called Bhutan Airlines, is available for both Apple and Android based devices, can be used to reconfirm flights, check flight schedules, and to contact the airline. It was pointed out at the event that more features such as receiving alerts on the status of flights would be included in the next update of the app.

Phala Dorji said that in the two years since Bhutan Airlines began operating international flights, much change had occurred such as a significant increase in seat capacity and the availability of choice for air travellers. Since 2013, the airline has flown around 4,200 flights and carried 158,200 passengers as of last week, it was pointed out.

He added that despite a difficult financial situation, the airline’s chairman Wangchuk Dorji has made it clear that there is no turning back for the airline. He said that Bhutan Airlines is now stable when it comes to operations and will even be expanding its route network to Singapore via Myanmar from next year.

Other possible destinations on the cards include Bangladesh and Malaysia.

During the event, the airline awarded its top sales agents and also conducted a lucky dip in which winning guests were awarded with free return trip tickets on each of its sectors.

Bhutan Airlines currently operates to Bangkok, Kathmandu, Kolkata, and New Delhi.

Gyalsten K Dorji