Public, private airlines lock horns over deal with India
A deep rift has emerged between the country's public and private airlines over the new Indo-Bangla air services deal that allows more flights between the countries, but which Bangladeshi flag carrier Biman fears will undermine its long haul routes.
Hailing the agreement, which was signed in Delhi on February 13, private airlines said the deal offers new business opportunities for Bangladesh's aviation industry.
The pact allows Bangladeshi airlines to operate flights to 18 destinations in India and Indian airline Air India to operate flights from Sylhet for the first time.
Under the deal, the number of weekly flights between Bangladesh and India will be raised to 61 from 30. India also waived a royalty provision. Earlier, Bangladesh Biman had to pay $100 to Air India for carrying a passenger to any third country destination via India.
Biman Bangladesh officials however said the agreement will benefit India, not Bangladesh.
Terming the agreement as unwanted, the officials said India will get more advantages from the agreement as more passengers will be carried through India to Europe and the US.
Biman officials also said the increase in the number of flights will not have a positive impact on Bangladeshi airlines, as the deal was not made on the basis of basic air traffic between the countries.
The number of basic air traffic between Dhaka and Kolkata was about 32,000 passangers in 2007 while the basic traffic between Dhaka and Delhi/Mumbai was about 10,000 in the same year, Biman statistics show.
Biman Managing Director Dr MA Momen said the company had earlier requested Australia and Canada to give permission to operate flights from those countries, but they declined saying there were not enough passangers.
Even Japan turned down the idea of a second weekly flight for Bangladesh giving the same reason, said Momen.
Commenting on the deal, Shahab Sattar, managing director of GMG Airlines, said, "This is one of the best air service agreements." Bangladeshi airlines will get great advantages to operate flights in India, he added.
Terming the agreement as a major breakthrough, Sattar said," Several obstacles to operating flights to India have been removed after the agreement."
"Everything in the agreement is positive for Bangladeshi airlines," said Muhammad Masud Khan Siddique, MD of Anmole Group, proprietor of A2Air, which will go into operations by March.
"Under the agreement we have got opportunities to operate flights to Kolkata, Mumbai and Delhi or other designated destinations in India,” said Tasdirul Ahmed Chowdhury, MD of United Airways.
"Earlier, Bangladeshi airlines could operate only 26 flights to Kolkata and four to Delhi/Mumbai," he said, adding that now Bangladeshi airlines will be able to operate more flights to Kolkata.
"The increase in flights will offer more opportunities for Bangladesh,” said Farhad Hossein, chief of marketing of Best Air.
A delegation led by Sheikh Altaf Ali, civil aviation and tourism secretary (who has been made OSD later), went to Delhi to sign the agreement with his counterpart on February 9.
Asked about the agreement with India, Ali said India in March 2006 sent the proposal through diplomatic channels and the then government approved the proposal.
"Under a memorandum of understanding (MoU), we have removed several obstacles of Bangladeshi airliners to operate their flights in India," he said.
When asked, Mahbub Jamil, chief adviser's special assistant for civil aviation and tourism, said the air service agreement with India will benefit Bangladeshi airlines.