Airports & Airlines

Bhutan has one airport, Paro and one airline, Druk Air.

The schedule changes by season, but normally there are three flights per week from New Delhi (via Kathmandu) and a daily flight from Bangkok via Dhaka or Kolkata, depending on the day of the week. To allow for extra visitors to the Thimphu tsechu (festival) in October and the Paro tsechu in April, the airline usually provides extra flights.

Reconfirm your Druk Air flight with your tour operator a few weeks before departure to ensure that the schedule has not changed, and also check the flight time the day before your departure. Druk Air is quite good about announcing schedule changes at least a week in advance in Kuensel and on BBS TV. Check in early for Druk Air flights as they occasionally depart before the scheduled time, especially if the weather starts to change for the worse. Flights are often delayed because of weather and Druk Air recommends that you travel on nonrestricted tickets and allow at least 24 hours transit time with your connecting flight in order to minimise the complications of delays. When flights cannot land in Paro there is no charge for the unscheduled tour of Bagdogra, near Siliguri, or Kolkata.

There are only a few aircraft that can operate on a runway that is as short and high as Paro’s. All landings and takeoffs in Paro are by visual flight rules (VFR), which means the pilot must be able to see the runway before landing, and see the surrounding hills before takeoff. No flights can be operated at night or in poor visibility. When Paro valley is clouded in, flights are delayed, sometimes for a few days. When this happens your tour program will have to be changed and everything rebooked. The up side of such a delay is that you can probably put some spontaneity into your schedule in Bhutan and make a few modifications as you go, depending on what you find interesting.

Druk Air is not allowed to issue tickets to Paro for foreign visitors until they receive a ‘visa clearance’ from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Thimphu. When the visa is authorised, the information is entered into the computer record for your reservation even though the actual visa will not be issued until you arrive at Paro airport. Druk Air will issue your ticket once it receives this number. For this reason, it’s difficult to get tickets for Paro flights issued along with your other international air tickets.

Because Druk Air has no interline agreements with other carriers, your ticket to Paro will be separate from your other international tickets. This means you cannot check your baggage all the way through to Paro via a connecting flight. You will need to reclaim your baggage and recheck it at the Druk Air counter. Similarly, when you depart from Bhutan, you can only check baggage as far as you are travelling with Druk Air, not all the way through to your final destination.

It is useful to have a photocopy of the visa clearance, or at least the visa number, to expedite the visa process.

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