• Sunday, December 21, 2014

Freedom in the air

Domestic airlines eye bumper ticket sales

Suman Saha

Local airlines look to a massive spike in business this year, as the country is scheduled to organise an international cricket event and start mega infrastructure projects.
Most carriers have already sold out nearly 90 percent of their tickets ahead of the ICC T20 World Cup cricket tournament, set to begin on March 16 and end on April 6.
“We obviously expect an increase in air travel on domestic routes during the World Cup as most foreign tourists will travel by air across the country,” said Mofizur Rahman, managing director of Novoair, the new entrant to the aviation industry.
The airline has sold over 80 percent of March's tickets on routes where the cricket tournament will be held – Chittagong, Cox's Bazar and Sylhet.      
United Airways, another operator, is almost sold-out for March, according to Kamrul Islam, the airline's assistant general manager.
Meanwhile, Kazi Wahidul Alam, an aviation expert, expects the air traffic flow on domestic routes to increase past the cricket tournament as the government is set to fast-track six mega-projects involving $15.5 billion.
The projects are: Padma bridge, a deep-sea port, a metro rail, 1,320-megawatt Rampal power plant, 1,000MW Rooppur nuclear power plant and an LNG terminal for importing liquid gas.
“There will be an increased mobility of foreign experts and officials due to the projects,” said Alam, also the editor of Bangladesh Monitor, a fortnightly travel and tourism magazine.
In any case, the domestic airline industry is going through a booming period due to the countrywide expansion of business activities and poor conditions of roads and railways.
“With the rise in purchasing power, people now prefer to travel by air,” said Abdul Momen, chief executive of Regent Airways, adding that corporate travellers have business urgency to meet and cannot afford to waste time on a road or rail journey.
United Airways, Regent Airways and Novoair currently serve the domestic routes, with a new airline, US-Bangla Airlines, and the flag carrier Biman Bangladesh Airlines set to join them next month and in May respectively.
In 2013, some 648,019 people travelled nationally by air, up 10 percent year-on-year, according to data from Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh.
United Airways carries the highest number of passengers, with more than 3.28 lakh passengers transported nationally last year.
The Dhaka-Chittagong route sees the highest traffic flow, followed by Dhaka-Jessore.

suman.saha@thedailystar.net

Published: 12:00 am Thursday, March 06, 2014

Last modified: 11:11 pm Wednesday, March 05, 2014

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