There have been some significant changes since the start of the 2013 trekking season in the way flights to Lukla are being managed. As you might know Lukla is the take-off point for almost all Everest treks.
There used to be three airlines operating daily flights to Lukla, but all except Tara Airlines were forced to discontinue their Lukla flight schedules as of this year. Fortunately Tara Airlines (an affiliate of Yeti Airlines, the largest in Nepal) has always been the most reliable airline flying to Lukla, and we can expect continued good service from them. Unfortunately, however, their new monopoly on this route has given them the freedom to impose some restrictive changes on the flights schedules and passenger rules and regulations.
There are now 35% fewer planes and flights (on average) scheduled into Lukla so this presents more difficulty securing flight reservations, especially for the more reliable early morning flights. Anyone planning to join an Everest trek during the main trekking seasons should confirm their booking as early as possible to insure that space on the Lukla flight will be available. The airline is also now requiring copies of passports to confirm reservations so these need to be sent as soon as you confirm your trek booking.
The other major change has been with the baggage weight limits. Previously, passengers were allowed up to 15 kg (33lbs) of checked luggage. This has now been reduced to a 10 kg/22 lb limit. The carry-on weight limit (5kg/12lb) has not been changed as yet.
There is also the possibility to pay a fee for excess baggage weight, but Tara Air has not confirmed the new guidelines for this. One thing to keep in mind is that Tara is applying these new restrictions to insure that total flight weight limits are not exceeded so that the flights are as safe as possible. This also applies to most flight delays in and out of Lukla, which are almost always because of greater caution and safety guidelines being applied by the airline.
ITrekNepal is addressing these changes as best we possibly can with some specific actions. We have always been very resourceful getting Lukla flight reservations, even under the most demanding conditions. The ITrekNepal operations staff have very close connections with Tara Air and will do whatever is required to secure the best flights for our trekking guests. However, please keep these limitations in mind when you make your trek plans since it may be very difficult to change flight dates at the last minute as we were able to do more easily in the past.
To deal with the luggage weight restrictions we are planning to store more trekking gear (sleeping bags, down jackets, etc.) at Lukla. We will also purchase the extra trek food in Lukla rather than Kathmandu to avoid having to check this as luggage. This will cost us a bit extra but is worth the cost to us so that our guests don’t have to restrict the amount of gear they bring any more than necessary.
We will keep our trekking guests updated about any new developments in this area, and welcome any questions or concerns you might have.