Travel cost of Middle-East bound Bangladeshi workers has increased at least three times in the last few months, as a number of foreign carriers stopped operations from Dhaka.
“Due to seat crisis, airfare in different destinations in Middle Eastern countries has been increased to around Tk 60,000 from Tk 20,000 in recent times, affecting workers the most,” said SN Manzur Murshed, president of Association of Travel Agents of Bangladesh, during a press conference at its head office in the city.
ATAB is a platform of the country's 3,500-odd travel agents involved in ticketing, visa processing, hajj and umrah operations.
The ATAB chief said seat crisis at different airlines took the worst shape since February on destinations including Jeddah, Riyadh, Dammam, Madina, Dubai, Doha, Bahrain, Muscat, Kuwait and Sharjah.
“We have also come to know that Emirates Airways and Qatar Airlines have decided to reduce weekly frequency of flights due to their internal problems,” Murshed said, adding, “The latest decision of Jet Airways to stop operation from Dhaka will worsen the present seat crisis.”
The ATAB president said the crisis was created following halt of operations from Dhaka by Etihad Airways, Fly Dubai, Oman Airways and now Jet Airways. He said the seat capacity decreased by 1,000 per week to the destinations as a result.
Besides, demand for seats on the routes have increased a lot at present, due to upcoming Eid-ul-Fitr and increasing number of umrah pilgrims from the country.
Pointing to Jet Airways' recent decision to stop operations from Dhaka for cash crisis, the ATAB chief said different travel agents have bought around 5,000 tickets of the carrier on different routes including Middle East.
“Due to Jet Airways' sudden decision, many passengers who have already left Dhaka for Middle East destinations on Jet Air, have been facing problems to return,” the ATAB chief said.
At the briefing, ATAB leaders said they don't get tickets on the routes even after offering two to three times higher prices.
They said workers are at risk of losing jobs, as they are not getting tickets to join work on due date.
“Besides, the country is also losing foreign currency due to price hike of tickets,” said the ATAB chief.
In its eight-point recommendation, ATAB urged the government to take initiatives so that different airlines increase flight frequencies to Middle Eastern countries from Dhaka.
It also urged the government to invite new foreign carriers to introduce operations from Dhaka on different Middle Eastern routes.
ATAB also urged Biman Bangladesh Airlines to reduce its frequencies on non-profit routes and increase flight frequencies to Middle East.
The other recommendations include making Biman Bangladesh Airlines' reservation system automated, and decreasing airfare for migrant workers.
Around 2,000 passengers travel towards Middle East every day, according to ATAB.