No respite to passengers’ plight
Biman suspends all domestic flightsMuktadir Rashid
The Biman Bangladesh Airlines suspended all its flights on domestic routes for more than two months to cope with the sudden shortage of aircraft and continue uninterrupted Hajj flights.
The officials of national flag carrier said the daily flights would remain suspended on Dhaka-Chittagong-Dhaka and Dhaka-Sylhet-Dhaka routes from September 19 to November 29.
Two Boeing-737 aircraft used for domestic flights will join the international routes, the Biman director (marketing and sales), Mohammad Shah Newaz, told New Age on Wednesday.
It will help continue flights on Dhaka-Muscat, Dhaka-Bangkok, Dhaka-Singapore and Dhaka-Kuala Lumpur routes, he said.
Shah Newaz said that Dhaka-Cox’s Bazar-Dhaka route was suspended for
runway maintenance a few months back while flights on other domestic routes from Dhaka were already suspended in different phases due to shortage of aircraft.
But sufferings of the passengers remained unchanged after the chaos triggered by a massive rescheduling of flights continued till Wednesday.
Biman apologised for the ‘unexpected situation’ erupted as an Air Atlantic plane, leased by Biman, that did not fly to Dhaka after dropping passengers at Muscat airport on September 12.
Biman officials said that more than 5,000 passengers were affected by the sudden reschedule of flights during the rush Hajj season, when the small-fleet airline depends heavily on other carriers.
On Wednesday, the passengers staged demonstration inside the terminal at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at about 9am, witnesses said.
Several hundred passengers, mostly workers booked for the Middle Eastern countries and Malaysia remained stranded at the airport for the last four days, still remained in the dark about their flights. Family members were seen waiting anxiously at the airport for their bread-earners.
Amid this chaotic situation, the civil aviation and tourism minister, Muhammad Faruk Khan, paid a sudden visit at the airport at about 11:30am and talked to the officials, the airport officials said.
The minister left the airport at about 12:00 noon avoiding the media people waiting for his comment.
Biman officials were continuing rescheduling flights and were facing difficulties to accommodate the stranded passengers.
BG 049 Biman was scheduled to fly for Riyadh with some 397 passengers at about 1:00am on Wednesday but it took off without 176 passengers.
Another Biman flight originally scheduled at about 5:30am for Kuala Lumpur was rescheduled at about 12:00 noon. Biman could not accommodate 63 more passengers. The remaining passengers will fly on Thursday and Friday.
The flight on Dhaka-London on Wednesday morning was rescheduled for Friday while a Dhaka-Rome flight on Saturday was deferred till September 26.
Till Wednesday afternoon, the Biman rescheduled flights on routes from Dhaka to Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Dammam, Riyadh and Kuala Lumpur, causing untold sufferings of the passengers.
The airport authorities restricted the media people to enter the departure lounge to gather news about what exactly was happening.
Talking to media people, some migrant workers after having failed to avail of any fights apprehended that they were going to lose their job due to delayed flight.
Mazed, who was scheduled to leave Dhaka on early Sunday for Kuwait, said his flight was rescheduled four times till Wednesday evening.
The helpless passengers said they were at risk of losing their jobs if they could not report to their places of works in time.
Abdul Mannan, who was originally scheduled to fly on Sunday for Kuwait, told New Age on Wednesday evening that his flight has been fixed on Thursday morning at 7:00am after rescheduling for four times.
‘Employers in Kuwait will not understand our problems caused by Biman’s failure and I will lose my job as I was supposed to join my work on September 16,’ he said, adding, ‘If I lose my job, Indians or Sri Lankans would replace me.’
Like Mannan, Firoj of Noakhali, Alamgir Sarker of Comilla and Khalilur Rahman were expressing their concern of losing job in Kuwait.
A number of migrant workers waiting for flights were worried as duration of their visas would soon expire.
The listed 19 hotels were already occupied while the passengers remained stranded at the airport, the officials said.
The passengers who did not get accommodation were either staying at the airport or somewhere in the capital on their own expenses.
The Biman director, Shah Newaz, said the aviation minister during the airport visit asked them to consider the migrant workers, particularly of those whose visas would expire soon.
Biman was running its flights on 20 international routes.
The passengers were requested to hold patience until September 25 when the authorities hoped they would be able to restore discipline in flight schedules. Biman officials said an aircraft with 276 passenger-capacity would join the fleet from September 24 to ease the crisis.
New Age Correspondent in Chittagong reported that the Association of Travel Agents of Bangladesh and Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh staged a demonstration and besieged the regional office of Biman, demanding continuation of direct Hajj flights to Jeddah from Chittagong.
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