Airliners struggling to survive

Airlines authorities must make plans to survive and must get over the loss due to the coronavirus pandemic, experts say.

Country’s flag carrier Biman Bangladesh Airlines and private airlines have been struggling to survive during the Covid-19 pandemic. The situation has been worsened in a fear of the second wave of the deadly virus in winter.

According to government information, the country’s passenger traffic has been reduced by 70 percent on international routes and 35 percent on domestic routes during the pandemic. However, the officials concerned are working to bring the situation under control. 

In 2019, the number of international and domestic passengers in Bangladesh was 1.3077 crore. Of the total, 8596,000 passengers on international routes and 4472,000 on domestic routes. 

However, still the foreign airliners carry the majority passengers of international routes from Bangladesh. They make a business of approximately Tk 8,500 crore per annum from Bangladesh. 

Different global agencies are also predicting that they will get over the alarming situation. But the airlines authorities of home and abroad fear more loss as coronavirus cases spiked across the globe again in recent days.

Due to a shortage of air passengers and pandemic situation, Biman Bangladesh has already suspended its flight operations to a large number of routes. The suspension period on five routes has been also extended. 

According to Biman's information, since the spread of Covid-19, the suspension of flights on five international routes- Bangkok, Manchester, Kathmandu, Medina, and Kuwait- has been extended several times since March. The flight was suspended till November 30. It has now been extended to December 31.

Biman’s managing director and CEO Mokabbir Hossain told Bangladesh Post, “Flight operations depend on the flow of passengers. Like previous stagnated situation, we will operate flights based on the demand of passengers or chartered, cargo. Already three of our passenger flights are now being used as cargo flights operating to Hong Kong, Guangzhou, some certain destinations of the Middle East and others.”

Mokabbir also said, “We are going to have new rules for carrying passengers. We have all preparations to face any obstacles.”

Of the country’s all private airlines except Regent Airways are operating flights in a limited manner for both domestic and international routes.

However, for the betterment of the country’s aviation sector, the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) has taken several initiatives. It has already waved aeronautical charges on domestic destinations and set to increase hanger facilities by next year. They have also written to the department of energy to reduce fuel charges. 

Before the Coronavirus crisis, Biman, US-Bangla, Novo Air, and Regent Airways used to operate about 150 daily flights to international and domestic destinations. These four airlines carry about 5 million passengers a year. 

It was learnt from airliners that they had set a target of transporting more passengers this year. They also planned to add new aircraft to their fleet and increase flight frequencies. But, they could not implement their plans as the virus hit the world badly.