The Financial Express

Domestic air travellers' turnout now almost normal

| Updated: November 29, 2020 09:22:18

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File photo. (Collected) File photo. (Collected)

Domestic passenger turnout has reached almost its pre-Covid stage, a top official of a private airliner said.

He said people now try to reduce six to eight hours' exposure by travelling and opt for air travel, contributing to stunning growth in local passenger movement.

This is very encouraging for the aviation industry, observed the chief executive officer of US-Bangla Airlines Capt Sikder Mesbah Uddin Ahmed.

US-Bangla now holds a domestic market share of 65 per cent after it has started flight operations during the pandemic since June 01.

It seeks to raise the share by another 5.0 per cent very soon and grab a major share in international routes by introducing new routes next year.

To this end, the company will add four more aircraft-two Boeing 737-800 and two third-generation brand new ATR 72-600.

"US-Bangla Airlines has been operating on all international routes, excepting Bangkok, and all seven domestic routes following health guidelines since June 01," Mr. Ahmed said.

"In 2021, the airliner will start operation in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, two major destinations of the Middle East and Male of the Maldives and Colombo of Sri Lanka."

The CEO of the carrier was addressing a press briefing in Cox's Bazar during a familiarisation trip recently where 76 journalists participated.

They will bring the two ATR by 2020 or early 2021 on a priority basis to operate on new domestic routes like Jashore-Chattogram, Saidpur-Cox's Bazar, and Sylhet-Chattogram.

Two Boeing aircraft are expected to arrive by March or April next year as soon as the Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Male, and Colombo operations start, the CEO explained.

"We started with 12 departure flights only after the civil aviation authorities permitted us in June. Now we operate 28 flights daily and will go for an extension."

"We handle a stunning number of domestic passengers ranging from 3,000 to 4,000 per day," Mr Ahmed said.

It is encouraging that the flow to Cox's Bazar is 1,800 to 2,000 a day of which US-Bangla carries 1,200 by deploying three Boeing 737 flights and two ATR flights.

The flight frequency on Cox's Bazar route will increase soon, the US-Bangla CEO added.

Her said the airline operated 100 international flights in six months of the pandemic. In normal time, it operates 100 flights in 15 days.

"We can't tell you the actual amount of loss we've incurred so far. It may take minimum two years to return to zero point we were earlier," Mr Ahmed said.

"We're continuously struggling for oxygen and we hope the government will take steps regarding landing, parking, overflying, air navigation charge, and hangar facility for passenger airlines."

About risky investment and plan for expanding international routes, he said aviation is such a technology that the only way forward to survive is to move on and not stop.

In his opening speech, US-Bangla general manager (public relations) Kamrul Islam said there is no scope for long- or short-term planning to survive.

That's why the company made an instant decision to operate flights to generate revenue and serve people who got stranded abroad.

Mr Kamrul said US-Bangla operated both chartered flights and cargo flights not only for revenue earnings but also for keeping the airliner functional.

The government's decision to open domestic flights and relax restrictions on passenger number has increased the movement of local tourists, he cited.

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