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Don’t panic in Paro

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eye to eye with the HimalayasParo Airport in the Himalayan country of Bhutan is “one of the world’s most challenging airports” according to Boeing.

And if it’s challenging for the pilots, it’s anything from an adventure to a nightmare for the passengers.

Only one airline flies into Paro: Bhutan’s national carrier DRUK AIR. In their in-flight magazine, they write that they’ve offered the route to other airlines, but that no other dared to fly into this extremely difficult airport.

Paro airport is at the end of a deep Himalayan valley.

follow that valleyTo land there, the pilot has to follow the meandering valley for  miles and miles, tracing every turn of the river below.

All the while, the pilot  gradually has to bring the aircraft down lower and lower and be careful not to scrape the mountains on either side of the plane.

When we flew into Paro this morning, the first officer even warned the passengers that the descent would be a little rough. He said due to the winter weather, turbulences were likely.

A chance to greet the natives

A chance to greet the natives

So in addition to the Himalayian mountains nearly touching the tips of your wings on both sides, this time our plane also got shaken pretty violently.

Landing at Paro is nothing for the faint hearted – especially at this time of year.

This is the only airport I know where I think it might be justified to applaud the pilot after a successful landing.

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Written by Thorsten

February 28, 2009 at 5:23 pm

Posted in travel

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Landing in the Himalayas

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We flew into Paro, Bhutan this morning.

Landing at this airport is extremely difficult because the pilots have to land in a very steep valley.

They have to fly on sight, can’t rely on their instruments to bring them in for a safe landing.

So when it’s foggy or rainy, planes can’t land at Paro international airport.

As you fly in to Paro, you see mountain ranges to your left and right on both sides of the plane.

The plane descends slowly, following every turn of the valley, and you feel like you can almost reach out and touch the houses and trees outside your airplane window.

No wonder pilots claim that this is the most difficult airport to land a plane safely.

Written by Thorsten

September 25, 2008 at 1:38 pm

Posted in observations, travel

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Fifteen bucks for business

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Swift service in the business lounge I have Frequent Traveller status with the German carrier Lufthansa and Star Alliance. That means I can get into the business lounge at any German airport, even if I only have an economy ticket.

The sad thing is that this doesn’t work at airports abroad, where I often have long waits for connecting flights.

If I wanted to get into a business lounge in Bangkok, Hanoi or Beijing without actually having booked a business flight, I’d have to have a gold card – unfortunately, my frequent traveller card is just silver.

Always hoping to get lucky

Nevertheless, I always try to get into the lounges with my silver card, hoping that somewhere, some time the locals might not know or care and just let me sit in those plush chairs and enjoy the free booze they serve in business lounges…

When I got to the lounge at the airport in an unnamed Asian city today, I was the only guest. The lady at the reception politely informed me that my silver card wasn’t enough to enter the lounge. As if I hadn’t known…

But then she suggested that I could talk to her boss – there might be a chance I could pay some money to get into the lounge.cushy chairs in the airport\'s business lounge

I thought that sounded like a good idea since I had more than one and a half hours to kill before my plane was due to depart.

The supervisor suggested I pay fifteen US Dollars.

That’s a sizeable sum in this unnamed Asian country.

After I gave her the cash, she happily put it into her wallet. Or was it the company wallet? Anyway: there were no witnesses. And I didn’t get a receipt.

Am I being too suspicious?

So let’s think of a more positive version of this episode. Who am I to suspect these people of any wrongdoing anyway?!

Let’s just look at this story from another point of view: the lady bent the rules to make my last hour in her country as pleasant as possible. She was friendly and helpful.

And for me it was nice to sit in a cushy chair and have access to the internet, instead of having to sit on the metal chairs in the general waiting area at the flight gate.

And who really cares about the fifteen bucks…

Written by Thorsten

June 8, 2008 at 4:19 am

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