Number of air passengers rising on domestic routes | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 18, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:40 AM, September 18, 2020

Number of air passengers rising on domestic routes

Flow of passengers in domestic routes has increased by 25 to 30 percent this month compared to that of July when flight operations resumed on a limited scale, according to airlines.

Various airlines said they saw a significant rise in passengers' number on domestic routes in September, with people's activities and the country's economy starting to regain normalcy.

Besides, the government decision to open up different holiday destinations particularly Cox's Bazar from August has played a key role behind it, said airline officials.

However, the number of air passengers is still low and the shortage on domestic routes put the air operators under huge pressure of losses. They hope that the number will increase by the end of this month.

Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) on September 12 eased the restrictions on carriers over how many passengers an aircraft could carry on domestic routes, with effect from the next day.

According to new CAAB guideline, an aircraft can carry passengers on every seat. However, the aft two rows would be kept aside for suspected Covid-19 patients.

Previously, planes on domestic routes were not allowed to seat passengers next to each other, unless they were related, and 25 percent of the seats were kept empty.

Speaking to The Daily Star, CAAB Chairman Air Vice Marshal M Mafidur Rahman on September 12 said in the wake of growing demand, and "since Covid-19 situation is improving", the restrictions on the number of passengers have been relaxed.

CAAB, however, asked all three domestic airlines to provide face masks to all passengers occupying either an aisle seat on two-abreast rows or the centre seats in three-abreast rows in addition to the existing health safety measures. Besides, the carriers shall provide masks to any passenger who asked for it.

Biman Bangladesh, US-Bangla Airlines and Novo Air are now operating flights from Dhaka on seven domestic routes -- Cox's Bazar, Chattogram, Jashore, Saidpur, Rajshahi, Sylhet and Barishal.

Due to the pandemic, domestic air travel was suspended from mid-March.

CAAB on June 1 allowed to resume flight operations on a limited scale on three airports -- Chattogram, Saidpur and Sylhet.

Flights on four other routes -- Jashore, Cox's Bazar, Barishal and Rajshahi -- were resumed by late July.

From March 16, the government suspended passenger flight operations till June 16 with all countries, except for China, to contain the transmission of Covid-19 in Bangladesh. From June 16, flight operations on international routes resumed on a limited scale.

Talking to this newspaper, Kamrul Islam, general manager (public relations), US-Bangla Airlines, said in June they had only a handful of passengers on different routes.

"But from late July, we had 50 percent passengers on different routes when we were allowed to load 75 percent of the total seats," said the spokesperson of US-Bangla Airlines.

With the resumption of flight on Cox's Bazar route from late July and the government's decision to re-open hotels, motels and resorts in August, the number of air passengers increased further, Kamrul also said.

"In August, the load factor was around 80 percent on different routes specially on Cox's Bazar destination," said Kamrul Islam. "We had resumed our operations on three domestic routes with around seven flights, but now we are operating around 41 flights each day on seven domestic routes," he added.

In normal times, the load factor of aircraft remains at 70-80 percent, according to different airlines.

CAAB Chairman Mafidur Rahman said strict safety measures maintained by air operators and CAAB's overseeing, helped boost passengers' confidence to travel by air.

Novo Air, another local air operator, said passengers load factor increased by 10 to 12 percent in August compared to July.

"After easing the restrictions, the number of passengers are increasing on different routes specially on Cox's Bazar," said Mahfuzul Alam, senior manager, marketing and sales, Novo Air.

The carrier resumed its operations with seven flights on three routes on June 1 which now increased to 21 flights each day on seven routes, said Mahfuzul.

Biman Bangladesh Airlines, the national flag carrier, also increased its flight on domestic routes from August. Biman at first suspended domestic flights a day after it resumed on June 1 due to a lack of passengers.

The national airline is now operating domestic flights on all seven routes.

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