Biman offers charter flights
Biman has now begun offering chartered flights on domestic routes due to frequent cancellations of all scheduled passenger flights over the last four days.
Tahera Khandakar, Biman's deputy general manager (public relations), in a Whatsapp message said, "Biman Bangladesh Airlines is offering charter flights to domestic destinations for family trips at a cost between Tk three lakh and Tk five lakh depending on the distance and five hours ground time. For extra time, extra charges are applicable."
This is the first time in Biman's history that the national flag carrier offered chartered flights on domestic routes following frequent cancellations of flights on domestic routes, sources in Biman said.
Speaking to The Daily Star, a senior official of the airliner said a special chartered flight is a flight operated by an air operator on special demand for a certain destination, and this flight is not part of the airline's regular flight.
Tahera Khandaker told The Daily Star that any people will be able to charter Biman's aircraft for five hours for a short trip from Dhaka to any of the other seven airports in Bangladesh -- Saidpur, Chattogram, Sylhet, Jashore, Rajshahi, Cox's Bazar and Barishal.
"After five hours, additional charges will have to be paid," she added.
Tahera said operating regular flights seems economically challenging due to a shortage of passengers.
"Due to this, we have decided to operate chartered flights instead of operating regular ones on the domestic routes, she added.
Biman was forced to cancel all its 46 flights between June 1 and June 4 due to a lack of passengers. The lack of passengers was because of the high prices of tickets, sources said.
Biman's flight on the Dhaka-Saidpur route took off on June 1 with only four passengers on board, while the return flight had 20 passengers, said Tahera.
The regular flight operations resumed on a limited scale on three domestic routes on June 1st, more than two months of suspension due to the coronavirus outbreak.
According to sources, the price difference between the national flag carrier and private operators was one of the main reasons behind the passenger shortage.
Biman was charging Tk 3,000 to 3,200 or more as a starting price for tickets while two private airlines -- US-Bangla and Novoair -- charged Tk 1,999 to Tk 2,500 for the same ticket.
That is why people are opting for the two private operators, sources said.
A senior Biman official said they did not want to operate their flights incurring losses.
"Other airlines are operating their flights at a reduced price. But we don't want to do unhealthy business," he said, preferring anonymity.
"Our starting price is Tk 3,000 to Tk 3,200 while other air operator is offering Tk 2,000 to Tk 2,500. We will not operate our flights this way. So, instead of domestic flights, we are giving priority to chartered flights on international routes [along with domestic routes], which is profitable," he added.