Operations at Dhangarhi, the biggest airport in western Nepal, are to be suspended in May for runway renovation as work continues to build it into an international gateway, The Kathmandu Post has reported.

The airport will be closed to all traffic from May 6 to June 4 as runway overlay and apron extension work commences.

Dhangarhi, which opened as an airfield at 210 metres' elevation in 1949, has a single asphalt runway, 09/27, measuring 1,800 x 30 metres making it the second longest in Nepal after Kathmandu.

Dhangarhi has needed a runway overhaul for about a decade, having seen its last upgrade 14 years ago. Pressure is mounting to make it Nepal’s fourth international airport, encouraging a greater inflow of tourists to the isolated far western region.

However, various issues have bogged down the process. A VOR/DME radio navigation system had been readied for installation to ease the operation of flights in reduced visibility and at night, a project initiated with the assistance of the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

Originally scheduled for January, this installation was pushed forward due to a land acquisition dispute and has also been hampered by underground water emerging at the location, according to the media agency Aviation Nepal.

For a week in late December 2018, the airport was in operation only at night as engineers repaired the runway after it suffered damage during heavy rains.

According to the ch-aviation schedules module, Dhangarhi is served by Buddha Air (U4, Kathmandu) with 14 weekly flights to Kathmandu and Shree Airlines (N9, Kathmandu) with six flights also to the Nepali capital.

On March 22, Summit Air (Nepal) (Kathmandu) launched weekly flights between Dhangarhi and Sanfebagar, 80km to the northeast. The 17-minute route is flown over the mountainous region with a Let 410 is expected to eventually increase to four weekly flights.