A Tk 4cr experiment with public money!
Without completing all required procedures, Biman Bangladesh Airlines is going to operate its first flight on the long awaited Dhaka-Toronto-Dhaka route tomorrow.
The flight is being termed an "experimental commercial" flight by the national carrier, whose sources said it might take more than two months to start regular flights on the route.
But this has raised questions from various quarters, which is seeing this as a "controversial decision", especially as the experimental flight is slated to cost Biman Tk 4 crore in public money.
The amount was revealed by Mahbub Jahan Khan, Biman's director of corporate planning and training, at a press conference at a city hotel.
Canadian high commission in Dhaka organised the press conference for the inaugural direct flight to Canada from Bangladesh.
Interestingly, only 36 of the 100 passengers on the experimental flight are general people, Mahbub said, while the rest are government officials and their family members.
The flight will carry at least a 55-member delegation to Canada for the appointment of a general sales agent and consultation with Transport Canada Civil Aviation (TCCA) and other related issues.
The delegation includes officials of Biman, the Civil Aviation Ministry and the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB).
Family members of several top officials, including State Minister for Civil Aviation M Mahbub Ali, are also among the delegation.
The flight is set to depart from Dhaka airport at 11:30pm on March 26.
Due to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, an additional two-hour fly time will be required to avoid the Russian air space, meaning it will take around 18 hours to reach Toronto. The number of general passengers in the return flight is 19 so far.
Biman insiders said promotional flights are usually not conducted until all formalities to officially launch the flight are completed, saying that it will still take more than two months to finish the necessary paperwork for that.
At the press conference, the state minister for civil aviation was asked about allegations against Biman for launching the flight without full preparation. In response, he said it was their long cherished dream to launch the flight on this popular destination, saying that operating flights on the route is also a prestige issue.
"We opted to inaugurate the flight on the country's Independence Day, March 26, to mark the remarkable day," he added.
As journalists kept asking him about the total number of government officials on the flight and why so many officials need to visit Canada at the cost of public money, the minister didn't provide any direct answer.
Also speaking at the programme, Dr Lilly Nicolls, high commissioner of Canada, said the direct flight between Dhaka and Toronto will expand the growing business and linkage between the people of the two friendly countries.
According to Bangladesh High Commission, Ottawa, bilateral trade between Bangladesh and Canada was US$ 2.42 billion in 2019. In the year 2020, between January to April, Bangladesh has exported goods worth US$440 million to Canada. On the other hand, Bangladesh imported goods worth US $ 231.28 million in the same duration.
Around 10 lakh Bangladeshis are currently living in Canada, while around 8,000 student are studying in different universities there.