Expressing disappointment over the passengers' sufferings due to poor luggage handling at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, Civil Aviation Minister AKM Shajahan Kamal yesterday suggested replacing Biman's aged staffers with young and energetic ones to speed up its operations.
He wanted to know how much time and what equipment the Biman high-ups would need to improve luggage handling at the country's main airport.
“For a passenger, it takes much time to get the luggage after landing at the airport. But why this happens? I am the minister, but I am not satisfied with the luggage handling service.”
Kamal was speaking at a programme titled “Pre-budget Discussion on Civil Aviation and Tourism” at the Dhaka Reporters Unity, organised by Aviation and Tourism Journalists Forum of Bangladesh (ATJFB).
“Biman is the pride of Bangladesh. It represents Bangladesh at home and abroad. We should work to keep Biman's image and pride intact so that no one can criticise the national airliner for poor service.”
The minister said the director (flight operations) of Biman had sought two months to improve the luggage handling at HSIA, but the situation remained unchanged.
“There are many employees who are aged and do not have strength to carry out duties. Say assalamualaikum [bye] to them with handsome amount of money and appoint young and energetic people to those posts.”
Kamal said two ministers complained to him about the delay in delivery of luggage at the airport. “They told me that you will be remembered by all if you can ensure getting luggage at the quickest possible time.”
He said Awami League lawmaker Col (retd) Faruk Khan told him that he got his luggage within around 20 minutes after landing at an airport in Morocco. “If other countries can deliver the service quickly, why can't we?”
Shakil Meraj, general manager (public relations) of Biman Bangladesh Airlines, said the national flag carrier was doing well in delivering services as it earned profits for the last three consecutive years. He said Biman made profits worth Tk 606 crore in the last three years.
He expressed optimism that carrier's service would improve further following the arrival of four Boeing Dreamliner aircraft -- two by the end of this year and another two by 2019.
ENSURE SAME PRICE OF JET FUEL
Addressing the programme, top officials of some private airlines demanded the government ensure same price of jet fuel for both foreign and domestic carriers.
“I can guarantee you that no domestic airliner will survive after next five years if the discrepancy in the jet fuel price is not resolved,” said Imran Asif, chief executive officer of US-Bangla Airlines.
At present, a domestic private airliner has to pay Tk 91 for a litre of jet fuel while a foreign airliner is charged Tk 65 per litre, he told the programme.
Asif also demanded that various charges, including landing, parking, navigation and security, of the domestic airliners be cut.
The civil aviation minister assured that he would raise the issue of cutting jet fuel prices with the finance minster.
Leaders of Association of Travel Agents of Bangladesh and Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh demanded the government allow tax-free import of luxury tourist vehicles to expand tourism in the country.
Faruk Khan MP, also the chief of the parliamentary standing committee on civil aviation and tourism, said he fully agreed with the proposals made by the stakeholders of the civil aviation and tourism sector. He assured them of taking the proposals into consideration after consulting the finance ministry about those.
Acting chief executive officer of Bangladesh Tourism Board Nikhil Ranjan Roy, Novoair Managing Director Mofizur Rahman, adviser of Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh Masud Hossain, Deputy Secretary General of Association of Travel Agents of Bangladesh Nurul Alam Shaheen, among others, spoke at the discussion, conducted by ATJFB President Nadira Kiron.
Talking to The Daily Star, Biman GM Shakil Meraj said a total of 120 flights use the HSIA daily. As many as 26 foreign airlines operate flights at the airport every day.
The airport offers service to around 70 lakh passengers and handles 1.6 crore luggage every year, for which it has only eight luggage belts, he added.