The government is likely to allow operation of low-cost airline, Air Asia Berhad, from Dhaka.
However, as per an inter-ministerial committee recommendation any such airline willing to operate from Bangladesh has to first fly from Chittagong.
"A meeting scheduled to be held today will take the final decision if the Kuala Lumpur-based airline will be allowed to operate on Dhaka-Kuala Lumpur route," an official of the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism told The Daily Star yesterday.
Asked why the government accepted Air Asia Berhad's application seeking permission of operating 7 flights a week from Zia International Airport when the inter-ministerial committee set conditions for operation of low cost airline from Dhaka, the official said, "Air Asia Berhad said it would operate from Dhaka like those of the traditional airlines."
Businesses concerned however say it is not possible for a low cost airline to act like a legacy airline suddenly.
The committee engaging the ministries of civil aviation, foreign affairs, home, expatriate's welfare, Civil Aviation Authorities of Bangladesh (CAAB), Biman Bangladesh Airlines Ltd and GMG Airlines recommended last February that Bangladesh should allow operation of low-cost carriers from Dhaka subject to at least three weekly flights from Chittagong.
Low-cost airlines offers air fares $100-$150 lower than that of the legacy carriers because of using same category aircraft and crew, low maintenance and fuel cost, short-haul flights, curtailment of onboard services like food and beverage, restrictions on baggage weight, online booking system and non-refundable tickets.
The services onboard are however available on demand.
The committee suggested that in the free market economy the government should ensure competitive business environment and consumers' interests so that they have chances to choose in line with their purchase capacity.
An official from Biman Bangladesh Airlines said, "Arbitrary allowing of low-cost airline will eat up the market share of the Biman and other local airlines."
As per the present agreement between Bangladesh and Malaysia, Bangladesh Biman Airlines operate 7 flights and local GMG Airlines operate 7 flights on the Dhaka-Kuala Lumpur route.
Presently only Air Arabia, a low cost airline operating on Chittagong-Sharjah route for over a year, started operating 6 flights a week on Dhaka-Sharjah route from June.