Biman sending 100 officials ‘to help hajj pilgrims’
Biman is spending crores to send around 100 officials to Saudi Arabia to assist Bangladeshi hajis even though it has a general sales agent and several fully-fledged offices in the kingdom for this job.
According to sources, Biman will spend between Tk 8 and Tk 10 crore on the 100 officials for their 37-day stay in Saudi Arabia. The Daily Star, however, could not independently verify the amount.
Biman is sending at least 33 officials from the customer service department, eight officials from the engineering and material management department, 28 sales and marketing officials, and two administration and HR officials.
Aviation industry insiders questioned the logic behind sending such a large team when Biman has a General Sales Agent (GSA) and country and station offices in Jeddah, Medina and Makkah.
"GSA is obligated to do all kinds of ticket-related work. Then why are 28 officials from the marketing and sales department going?" an official of Biman said.
Ground handling services are provided by Saudi authorities under an agreement.
A Biman official will get a daily allowance between $220 and $225 (around Tk 24,000) which will be around Tk 9 lakh for the 37 days, said a Biman official. This amount will be given in addition to other facilities.
The allowance varies depending on the position of the officials, the official said.
Biman Managing Director and CEO Shafiul Azim told The Daily Star that they were not sending any additional manpower.
He said last year Biman sent 119 officials to Saudi Arabia when it carried around 30,000 hajj pilgrims. "This year Biman will carry around 62,000 pilgrims."
Explaining the matter, the Biman boss said Biman employees have to do everything, including carrying the luggage of pilgrims to and from hotels and the large Zamzam water containers when they depart Saudi Arabia.
They also have to manage the pilgrims' luggage in line with the weight limit.
There is a lot more work that needs to be done within a short time after a Biman flight lands there, he said.
"In case of an hour's delay [for departure], the Saudi authorities will impose a huge fine," he added.
However, M Shahadat Hossain Taslim, president of Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh, said under the Makkah Route Initiative, Saudi-appointed employees carry the pilgrims' luggage between the airport and their hotels. They also carry the Zamzam water containers, he added.
Sheikh Mohammed Yasin of Baliakandi in Rajbari performed hajj in 2019. He said it was bus staffers who carried the pilgrims' luggage from the hotel to the airport in KSA.
He said Biman staffers in Dhaka gave them the water containers which were flown in in the cargo hold of the plane under Biman management.
Apart from Biman, Saudia and Flynas are also flying pilgrims to Saudi Arabia from Bangladesh. The two carriers are not sending any additional officials to Bangladesh for processing pilgrims, officials of Saudia told The Daily Star.
A Saudia official said their GSA would be carrying out the work.