Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Cosmic Air


This week I was searching for a rock bottom price for a Mumbai flight, knowing that once I arrived things could get pricey. So I visited Cosmic Air, Nepal’s low cost airline.

Cosmic air was once a promising private business in Nepal. It began in the nineties following de-regulation and benefited from a healthy number of tourist visits. Part of its advantage was that it was a budget airline and gave travelers more options in and out of Kathmandu which, for a city of a few million people, has relatively limited air service. At first cosmic flourished, becoming Nepal’s first private carrier to run jet service on domestic routes. They were to be the Jet Blue of Nepal, if you will. Then came the maoist insurgency, and tourist visits plummeted.

Now they look more like Pan Am. Cosmic has two airplanes, and both of them are currently grounded for maintenance. This week, their sales office in the Durbar Marg neighborhood of Kathmandu was dim and empty. The screens of computer terminals were blank and quiet. It had the feeling of an abandoned corner of a customs warehouse. Six employees still show up for work each day, waiting for the planes to be fixed so they can once again sell $100 fares to Delhi, or Varanasi, in India. It’s been this way for a month, and according to the sales person who revealed herself from behind a wooden cubicle, they’re not expecting the planes to be fixed until November.

Until then, they’re another stalled operation in downtown Kathmandu, with no electricity on this occasion even to make tea.

3 comments:

Willing said...

Well, I'm sure they'll do a bang-up job on that maintenance, since they're taking so long. Shit, son, I'd rather take a Polish helicopter!

Julie said...

How often do these things happen, and for how long?

Matt said...

If you mean power outages: every day, for a couple hours or more. If you mean grounded planes: it's happened to cosmic air at least once before, because they could no longer pay for fuel. Nepal Airlines (previously Royal Nepal Airlines) has at least one plane grounded right now, I believe, and they only have maybe two jets total. So yeah, overcrowded runways are not a problem here.