Nepali Royal Airlines (NRA) should be avoided at all costs. There is simply no price to pay for an airline which takes to the sky whenever it feels like it. Quite simply, their promise as the only airline to fly passengers direct to a country like Malaysia, is full of hot air. More often than not passengers are made to transit hours on end, and sometimes days.
In fact, a confirmed flight with a nine hour transit to Singapore or Thailand via Silk Air or Thai Airways -as opposed to an NRA four hour direct flight from KTM to Kuala Lumpur, is far more appealing and reassuring than turning up to an airport and being told that your NRA flight has been cancelled. The only other option being, returning the next day with still no guarantee that the plane will actually take off. Calling to see if your NRA flight has been cancelled is fruitless, because such information cannot be found on their website. And neither does the airline take the initiative to call or text to inform its passengers that their flights have been cancelled. And there’s not to say that the travel agency who booked you on NRA has any insider information. They are equally clueless. Taking a taxi or any form of public transport to and from the airport is never cheap, so the result of flying NRA ends up being costly. What more when one has a meal at the airport. Did NRA offer a reimbursement via even a cheap hotel in Kathmandu, or at the very least offer a meal voucher for the inconvenience caused? Silly question!
When I finally confirmed my outward bound flight with NRA, I requested an upgrade to Business Class. I was told that a few calls would have to be made to ensure that I would get a meal with my seat. After a half hour the man behind the counter gave me the thumbs up. By then, there was an embarassingly long queue on my account! A short walk reavealed a reasonably comfortable business class lounge with a choice of Tandoori Chicken, an array of sandwiches, salads and a fridge full of drinks.
When it was time to board the plane, I was apprehensive about what my business class ticket would offer. There were no welcoming smiles from the crew and for some reason a strange woman dressed in an orange and red sari was talking unintelligibly as she pointed to my seat. I asked her if she wanted me to stand up so that she could sit near the window, but I soon discovered that she was actually the flight attendant! Had she greeted me first, it would have been apparent as to what she was.
A weary sign in front of my 1A seat said Shangri –La. If Shangri-La were a fictional place, this must be it! The service was basic and the food looked starved off freshness and nutrients having been heated well beyond what was necessary. The menu boasted a choice of Assorted Canopies-which upon one look, I instantly avoided. The main course had options of Chicken Jhalfrezi or Mutton Rogan Josh or Steamed Fish with Lemon or Lauki Sabzi. I went for the mutton and prayed that the mutton wouldn’t decide to go for me. My upgrade to business class was rather unexciting. But at least the seats were comfortable with reasonable leg room.
Unsurprisingly my NRA return flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kathmandu was also cancelled. I was told to return three hours later and get a connecting flight via Bangkok. An unattractive sheet of paper headed Flight Interruption Manifest was issued with a new flight departure to Kathmandu via Thai Airways in Bangkok and flying NRA from Bangkok to Kathmandu. By which time, my flying and transit time would have amounted to 18 hours. I was not about to complain. Some of the other Nepalese passengers with their shrink-wrapped luggage were sent to a nearby hotel (lucky them) and were asked to return the next day for the luck of the draw. My flight with Thai Airways was seamless. In fact the interior of its roomy economy class made the NRA business class look like a portable loo in comparision.
The check-in counter lady informed me of several occasions when passengers’ baggages have been checked in with boarding passes issued, and even then, the NRA flight was cancelled. And just last week, the NRA plane flying from Kuala Lumpur to Nepal was cancelled because of a purported hydraulics problem. Perhaps there’s some truth to what one passenger said, that NRA only flies when it has a full plane-and that will, one hopes, will occur less and less if passengers keep getting bumped off. In fact, to save future passengers from the wrath of NRA, Nepalese travel agents should discourage their clients from flying with them. Particularly if these savy agents hope to keep their clients.
NRA flies to other destinations: Doha, Dubai, New Delhi, Bangkok and HongKong. They also fly domestic to many cities-where NRA flights might possibly (not probably) be more consistent. But does it really matter? The only thing consistent about the Never Regular Airline, is their inconsistency.