Kathmandu: Fares on the New Delhi-Kathmandu flight are poised to dip, to the joy of the budget traveller, as India's low-cost carrier IndiGo readies to start operations to the Himalayan republic with seven trips a week.

The Gurgaon-based domestic airline, which announced it would go international from September with flights to Dubai, Singapore and Bangkok, can actually debut with Kathmandu in August if Nepal's tourism and civil aviation ministry cuts through the red tape.

President International, IndiGo's general sales agent in Nepal, said Indian civil aviation authorities have cleared the New Delhi-Kathmandu flight. Once the concerned Nepal ministry gives its nod, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal will give the final permission.

With Nepal celebrating 2011 as its tourism year with a target of drawing one million air-borne tourists, President International said it would like to see the New Delhi-Kathmandu flight kick off from Aug 4.

The flight will see brand new 180-seater Airbus 320s with emphasis on low fares.

Currently, Jet Airways and Air India fly between the two capitals along with budget carriers JetLite and Spicejet. Bhutan's national carrier Druk Air also transits in Kathmandu.

The one-way fare on budget airlines is about Nepali Rs.7,000. While there has been no official announcement about IndiGo's fare structure, reports say it could be as low as Nepali Rs.5,000, inclusive of taxes.

Though India remains Nepal's closest neighbour in terms of geography, and Indian cities are barely 90 minutes away from Kathmandu, the comparatively high fare on this segment as well as to other Indian cities from Kathmandu - like Kolkata, Varanasi and Mumbai - act as a deterrent in bringing a larger number of visitors to Nepal from India.

'Hotels in Kathmandu and other packages are extremely competitive,' says Sharad Pradhan of Nepal Tourism Board. 'But the high fare puts off travellers. In comparison, fares from India to other countries like Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia are far cheaper.'

In the past, the advent of a budget Nepali airline, Cosmic Air with its promotional scheme of buy one, get one free, had been hailed by travellers and forced the other airlines to lower ticket prices. However, the honeymoon did not last long as Cosmic had to stop flights due to internal problems.

(Agencies)