Biman Bangladesh Airlines yesterday cancelled its flight from Dhaka to Abu Dhabi, as the UAE government is not accepting any Bangladeshi passengers carrying employment visas at present.
The development, meanwhile, sparked panic and uncertainty among UAE expatriates currently in Bangladesh.
The national airliner primarily cancelled its Dhaka-Abu Dhabi flight till August 31, Mokabbir Hossain, managing director and CEO of Biman Bangladesh Airlines, told The Daily Star over phone.
Mokabbir, however, said the national flag carrier will operate two flights weekly from Abu Dhabi to Dhaka.
The Biman MD said, "The UAE government is not giving clearance to Bangladeshi passengers to enter the country, when we issue boarding passes to them."
"In recent days at the Dhaka airport, it happened several times that passengers started hue and cry after they failed to fly to Abu Dhabi despite having visa and other documents, as the UAE government is not allowing any Bangladeshi with having employment visa," said the Biman MD.
As an example, Mokabbir said Biman recently sold 220 tickets to UAE-bound Bangladeshi passengers for a flight. "Of the total passengers, we could issue boarding passes to 40-odd passengers, due to restrictions by the UAE government. The rest of the passengers couldn't travel. The matter didn't end here. When the 40 passengers landed at Abu Dhabi airport, the UAE government didn't allow many of them to enter the country," added Mokabbir.
"Considering this, we have decided to cancel the flight from Dhaka to Abu Dhabi."
Biman, on its website, said Bangladeshi passengers with employment visas are not being accepted by Abu Dhabi authorities at present, so it is not possible for Biman Bangladesh Airlines to carry Bangladeshi passengers with an employment visa to Abu Dhabi.
The notice said for the same reason, Biman will operate weekly two flights instead of six until August 31 for passengers wishing to return to Bangladesh from Abu Dhabi.
"The airline will resume passenger transport from Dhaka if the Abu Dhabi authorities agree to accept employment visa holders in the future," Biman said.
The Biman MD said Biman's flight on Dhaka-Dubai route, however, will continue.
VISA CANCELLATION PANIC GRIPS PASSENGERS
Meanwhile, panic over visa cancellation has gripped Bangladeshis with employment visa to UAE who are currently back home, as a result of the move.
Abul Hossain, an expatriate from UAE and resident of Feni, told The Daily Star yesterday in Chattogram that despite trying for the past two weeks, he failed to get any air ticket to reach his workplace.
"We are very worried, as the UAE government announced last Tuesday that it would stop taking back workers. I don't know whether I will be able to return to my workplace," he said.
Abdul Haque of Chattogram's Rangunia said, "I don't know how I will go back to work within the scheduled time. If I can't, I'll have to undergo a lot of complications. My visa could be cancelled," he said.
Abdul said he heard the construction firm he works for might reduce workers due to the pandemic. It might be those who will not join on time, he feared.
"For the last two weeks, I came to Biman Bangladesh office to get a ticket but failed," he told this newspaper.
During a visit to the Biman Bangladesh Airlines office in Chattogram yesterday, hundreds of expatriates were seen coming for tickets to the Middle East, including UAE, but were waiting for a long time without getting tickets.
Jabed Tareq Khan, assistant general manager of the Biman office in Chattogram, told The Daily Star, "We couldn't give tickets to everyone because of the sudden increase in air ticket demand. We are operating our regular flights to other countries except .
"We are not selling any more tickets [to Abu Dhabi] until further notice from the country," he added.