Private carrier United Airways (BD) Ltd may face operational suspension due to outstanding aeronautical and non-aeronautical charges of around Tk 77 crore to the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (Caab).
The airlines regulator has already imposed a ban on sale or purchase of aircraft by United Airways until it clears all current and outstanding charges in the next one year.
“If the airline fails to pay the charges within the scheduled timeframe, we might stop their operation anytime,” Caab Chairman Air Vice-Marshal Mahmud Hussain told The Daily Star on Thursday.
The private carrier was not regular in paying its dues to Caab in the last one year, he said. “The airline has directly collected around Tk 9 crore embarkation fees from passengers on behalf of Caab but is yet to deposit that sum,” he cited.
The airlines regulator has served at least 20 notices in the last one year on United Airways asking it to pay the arrears. It was all in vain.
Caab at a meeting with the carrier on April 6 instructed it to pay Tk 5 crore outstanding charges in three instalments along with all current dues by June 15.
The regulator has also ordered the air operator to submit a plan with payment dates and amounts to pay the rest of the dues by June next year.
In the meantime, Caab has renewed the Air Operating Licence for the private carrier for only three months up to June 29 instead of a usual one-year term.
United Airways' net profit was Tk 55.56 crore in 2012-13 fiscal and Tk 27.75 crore in the first half of the current fiscal. It now has a fleet of 11 aircraft, of which eight are operational and three are grounded.
“The airline is making profits but not paying the dues. Where has the profit gone then?” questioned the Caab chairman.
“Since the airline's outstanding charges to Caab have become a huge amount, an internal audit should be carried out by Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission,” he said, adding that Caab would request the stock market regulator to conduct the audit.
United Airways, which began operations in 2007, was listed on the stock market in 2010 through initial public offering and raised Tk 100 crore. In 2011, it raised another Tk 315 crore from shareholders through rights offer.
Md Kamrul Islam, assistant general manager (marketing support and public relations) of United Airways, said the airline had made the payment delay as a ministry decision to waive their aeronautical and non-aeronautical charges for five years was pending with Caab since September 2012.
He added the civil aviation ministry in March last year even reminded Caab to implement the decision, but the regulator in October waived only route navigation, landing and security charges with effect from June last year for three years.
He further said Tk 40 crore of the Tk 77 crore outstanding amount stood for charges and the rest for surcharges.
Asked, the Caab chairman said since they met the running, repair and maintenance costs of the country's airports with charges from local and international airlines, they could not implement the ministry's decision fully.