Dhaka-New York flight uncertainty is unacceptable
For 16 years, thousands of people of Bangladeshi origin living in and around New York – and thousands more travelling to the US every year for various purposes – have been hoping for a direct flight on the Dhaka-New York route. Their wait, unfortunately, is far from over.
According to a report in this daily, a visiting US delegation was dissatisfied with the level of security at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, and their report to the effect may delay Biman's ongoing efforts to resume direct flights between Dhaka and New York. By the foreign minister's own admission – during a meeting of the parliamentary standing committee on foreign affairs on August 8 – the US delegation gave a negative report because the airport security staff "barely carry out any checks on foreigners".
Given the desperation with which Bangladesh has been pursuing this agenda and the promises of progress made over the past few years, we fail to understand why our authorities did not take the necessary steps to capacitate our security staff and develop and implement an effective safety oversight system.
The US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) placed the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (Caab) in Category 2 after finding irregularities in its operational activities in an investigation in 2006, leading to additional restrictions on Bangladesh's airlines flying to the US, including resumption of the sole direct route between the nations. According to FAA findings, Bangladesh's aviation regulator runs short of technically qualified personnel. The Bangladesh government has been lobbying for a long time to attain a Category 1 status (which essentially means a state meets the International Civil Aviation Organisation's minimum safety standards) and restore Biman's Dhaka-New York flight. We are disappointed that the talks – to say nothing of the investment of Bangladesh Biman, which has reportedly already purchased a number of Boeing aircrafts for the flight – did not materialise in concrete improvements at Dhaka airport.
One does not need to be an expert to observe the dire state of security at the airport, which runs on mismanagement, chaos and inefficiency. However, given the desperation with which Bangladesh has been pursuing this agenda and the promises of progress made over the past few years, we fail to understand why our authorities did not take the necessary steps to capacitate our security staff and develop and implement an effective safety oversight system. Gross safety oversights aren't just a concern for US officials – it's a threat for all passengers boarding planes from the Dhaka airport and also a matter of national security.
According to the US Census Bureau, there were around 208,000 Bangladeshis living in the United States as of 2019, and Bangladeshi Americans were among the fastest-growing origin groups, with their number surging 263 percent over the past two decades. In addition to those living in the diaspora, a large number of people fly to the US regularly for higher studies, or for business or tourism purposes. For Bangladeshis living here and abroad to truly reap the benefits of an increasingly globalised world, air travel must be made faster, cheaper and more convenient. Our airports, which have consistently let us down, need an urgent overhaul, beginning with complying with international safety standards.