Most of cabin tickets for June 22-24 of major launch services had been sold out before the date fixed to start the sale of advance tickets -- which was yesterday -- ahead of Eid.
The festival will be celebrated on June 26 or 27 this year.
Many people alleged that launch operators increased the fares of VIP, first and second class cabins by Tk 200 to Tk 600 to earn extra money before Eid-ul-Fitr.
Launch owners, however, refuted the allegations.
Usually, 70-75 launches ply across 41 routes, mostly to the country's southern regions from Dhaka's Sadarghat. Some 130 more join the fleet to carry 8-10 lakh people who travel by waterways around Eid vacation, according to transport operators.
At a meeting on June 11, officials of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) and representatives of launch owners, workers' associations and law enforcement agencies decided that advance cabin tickets -- around 10,000 to 12,000 -- would be sold from yesterday.
But Mohammad Faruk, a resident of Keraniganj, didn't get a cabin ticket to Amtali in Barguna for June 22.
“Some launch owners did not even open their ticket counters [at Sadarghat terminal yesterday],” he said.
Talking to The Daily Star, at least three launch owners and several staff said advance tickets for June 22-24 had been sold out.
While visiting the launch terminal, this correspondent found only eight of 29 counters open for selling tickets. There was no crowd of people for buying tickets either.
Reaz ul Kabir, director of Surovi Group of Company that runs several launches on different routes, said the company allowed passengers to book tickets from June 12. All tickets were sold out by Wednesday.
Asked about the fixed date for selling advance tickets, he said the date was fixed without consulting them.
When his attention was drawn to launch owners being present in the June 11 meeting, he said, “We did not get any notice from the [launch owners] association.”
Sayedur Rahman Rintu, owner of Sundarban Navigation Company, told our Barisal correspondent on Tuesday that the launch service provider made advance tickets available for booking on June 6. And all seats were filled by June 13.
Md Shahbuddin, in-charge of cabins of MV Ovijan-3, 5, and 7, said the vessels would make trips from Dhaka to Muladi in Barisal and Dhaka to Vandaria in Pirojpur on June 21, 23, 25.
All tickets for June 23 had been booked five to seven days ago mostly through phone calls. Some tickets are still available for June 21 and 25, Shahbuddin said.
Mamun-or-Rashid, an executive member of Bangladesh Inland Waterways (passenger carriers) Association, said except some Barisal-bound launches, advance tickets were still available.
Saiful Islam, an employee of a public university, said he had bought a ticket of double cabin of Rajdut-7 at Tk 2,200 on June 10 to travel from Dhaka to Hularhat in Pirojpur whereas the usual ticket price was Tk 1,600.
Humayun Kabir, a clerk of MV Jaltaranga-1, said the launch operator charged passengers Tk 800 for a single cabin, Tk 200 more than the usual price, and Tk 1,600 for a double cabin, which was 1,200 in normal time.
About the overpricing of tickets, Rashid said that throughout the year, launch operators charged passengers less than the government-fixed rates as they earned from up and down trips.
But during the Eid season, they sell tickets at the fixed rates since they only make one-way trip.
Zainal Abedin, joint director (Dhaka river port) of the BIWTA, said it was common practice to sell tickets from launches and get tickets booked though phone calls.
He, however, said selling of launch tickets from counters would increase today.