Jet skids off runway causing Kathmandu airport chaos (Updated)

KATHMANDU: A Malaysian jet carrying 139 people that aborted its takeoff and skidded into mud forced Kathmandu airport to shut down for more than 12 hours causing flight chaos Friday after the latest near miss on the city's notoriously dangerous runway.

Nobody was hurt in the incident but hundreds of passengers had flights out of the Nepalese capital cancelled and all incoming flights were diverted after the Malindo Airlines Boeing 737 went off the runway late Thursday.

The jet was speeding down the Tribhuvan International Airport runway when the pilots detected a problem and aborted takeoff, airport spokesman Prem Nath Thakur said.

The jet skidded into grass and came to a halt in mud about 30m from the runway at the airport which had a major crash last month.

"All aboard are safe," Thakur said, adding that the cause of the cockpit alert was not immediately known.

Nepal's only international airport reopened again just before midday Friday after the jet was "removed without any damage," Thakur added.

More than 100 people were needed to move the jet, its tyres stuck in grass that had been turned into a soggy morass by recent rainfall.

Tow tractors pulled the jet out of the mud up ramps set up in front of the tyres.

Delayed expansion

American traveller Sarah Ann Loreth, heading to Doha before returning to her home in Boston, spent hours on her delayed jet after the emergency.

"We were supposed to take off on Thursday but couldn't because of the Malaysia flight," she told AFP.

"Around 2am the flight attendant informed us the other flight had slipped off the runway and was stuck in the mud and could not be moved.

"They deplaned us around 2.30am and it was pure chaos. We went back to the terminal and they had our bags laid out behind the counter and we just went behind and grabbed them."

Cars eventually took the passengers to hotels to wait for a reorganised flight, Loreth said.

The Himalayan nation has some of the world's most remote and tricky runways, flanked by snow-capped peaks with approaches that pose a challenge even for accomplished pilots.

Its only international airport struggles with surges in passengers and flights, and faces constant congestion and air traffic.

"Delayed expansion of the airport has made things difficult. If we had the infrastructure, other flights would not be disrupted and we could have removed the aircraft more quickly," said Sanjeev Gautam, chief of Nepal's civil aviation authority.

The incident came one month after the crash of a US-Bangla Airways plane at Kathmandu airport, which killed 51 people.

In March 2015, a Turkish Airlines jet skidded off the runway as it landed, forcing Tribhuvan Airport to close for four days.

Nepal has a poor air safety record. Accidents are common and Nepal-based airlines are banned from flying in European Union airspace. — AFP