Speakers, including aviation experts and top officials of the country's three airlines, today said the second wave of Covid-19 has hit the aviation sector at a time when it was trying to turn around, braving the losses caused by the first wave of the virus last year.
Saying that the second wave of coronavirus affected them like the final nail in the coffin, they demanded that the government waive different aeronautical, non-aeronautical and other charges for now.
Participating in a webinar titled "Bangladesh aviation sector amid pandemic: challenges and way out", they also cautioned that 10 private airlines have closed down so far and only two are remaining in operation despite various obstacles.
Aviation and Tourism Journalists' Forum organised the webinar.
Novoair Managing Director Mofizur Rahman said the second wave of Covid-19 hit the aviation sector at a time when they were trying to recover from the severe damages caused by the first wave.
Mofizur said aeronautical, non-aeronautical and other charges imposed by the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh are much higher compared to the neighbouring countries.
He also said several obstacles including delay in importing required spare parts of aircraft and customs related problems are also responsible for the sorry state of the airlines.
Mofizur demanded that the CAAB as the regulatory body and the concerned ministry take necessary measures immediately to remove those obstacles.
"Due to the efforts of the last 20 years, the aviation sector has reached its present state. This sector, hit hard by Covid-19, will not survive unless policy and other relevant support from the government," Mofizur added.
Mofizur demanded that the government give them respite from paying different charges for now.
"Allow us time to pay the current charges. We will pay all those charges as arrears when the situation becomes normal. We will be able to survive if these are done," he also said.
Abdullah Al Mamun, managing director of US-Bangla Airlines, said although flights on different international routes remained suspended for over one year, they are bound to pay huge sums of money to CAAB as charges.
He said local airlines are in a very sorry state at present.
While explaining this, he said US-Bangla Airlines has lost 70 percent capacity in international routes and 54 percent capacity in domestic routes.
"Before Covid-19 pandemic, we used to operate 36 flights per day which now stands at only 18 flights," Mamun explained further.
"Under these circumstances, it's impossible for us to survive," added the US-Bangla Airlines MD.
Mamun said they have been demanding waiver of aeronautical, non-aeronautical and other charges for the last seven to eight years. But the authorities concerned are yet to pay heed to their demand.
Mamun said they have to pay Tk seven to eight crore as aeronautical charge which is a huge burden for them.
Kazi Wahidul Alam, an aviation expert, said it would be hard for the country's airlines to survive without policy and revenue support from the government.
"Many established airlines have become bankrupt due to the Covid-19 fallout and our private airlines will not be able to survive if the government does not readjust the fuel price, aeronautical and non-aeronautical charges," he also said.
Biman Managing Director and CEO Abu Saleh Mostafa Kamal said Biman has lost 43 percent capacity, causing huge loss of the national airlines.
"Recently we have purchased three brand new aircraft. Besides five state of the art technology equipped aircraft are also laying idle. But we have to pay money as loan and maintenance cost for every hour for those aircraft," he also said.
State Minister for Civil Aviation M Mahbub Ali said the aviation sector is going through a very difficult time at present due to Covid-19.
"But the government must stand beside the airlines and will do whatever necessary for their survival," he said.
Secretary, Civil Aviation Ministry, Md Mokammel Hossain said the government will give highest priority on how to give incentives so that the aviation industry can move forward.
Hoping that the aviation sector will be revived again, CAAB Chairman Air Vice Marshal M Mafidur Rahman said he will discuss with the stakeholders on reducing various charges.