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Bangladesh - March 23, 2024

Biman Dhaka-Rome flight caught in trap of US sanctions

Syed Nasir Hossain : All preparations for the resumption of Dhaka-Rome flights are almost complete. But complications have arisen due to US sanctions on Iran. The ban has an indirect effect on Bangladesh. Biman Bangladesh Airlines is facing various problems especially in Dhaka-Rome route.
Those concerned say that the Biman authority has decided to resume flights on the Dhaka-Rome route which was closed in 2015 (previously Biman operated direct flights). But the aircraft will not be able to operate the flight smoothly on the scheduled route. Because that route has Iranian airspace. The use of which is restricted by the United States of America. Due to the ban, Bangladesh Biman will be able to operate flights using airspace of three countries instead of Iran. But it will increase the cost and travel time. Additional fuel would be required and three countries would have to pay overfly charges instead of one.
Analysts say that there are no restrictions on the use of Iranian airspace by aircraft. The problem is that Iran has to pay the airline’s fixed fee for using that airspace. And this will bring the aircraft under US restrictions. Aerotime Hub has been told by Biman that Bangladesh is ready to pay all fees for using Iranian airspace as per international rules.
But Bangladesh does not want a conflict with the West under any circumstances, especially with the United States. As a result, it is necessary to reach an agreement with the United States to pay the overfly payment to Iran or do anything else. By doing this, Dhaka will move forward. It should be noted that Iran will not allow the aircraft to use the airspace if payment is not made, Bangladesh is also considering that. In this case, the alternative for the plane is to go to Rome by using the air routes of other three countries instead of using Iranian air routes. In that case both flight time and cost will increase. Total travel time on this route is 8-9 hours. The alternative route will take 10.5 hours to reach Rome. The responsible representatives of Biman say that in 2015, Biman last operated a flight on the Dhaka-Rome route via Frankfurt. It lengthened the journey and reduced the number of passengers. At one point the authorities were forced to close the route. To resume the route and make it economically viable, the aircraft would have to fly over Iran and pay overflight charges to the Middle Eastern country as per international rules. A top airline official, who did not want to be named, said that the US is not allowing the country to charge overfly due to sanctions on Iran. As a result, Bangladesh is in both crises. Stepping forward without a compromise will increase the distance with the United States. And if Dhaka does not pay the overfly charges, Iran will not allow the aircraft to overfly. An Air Force official said, “We have already given some money to Iran and the US is creating problems because of this.” He said, if we cannot use Iran’s airspace, we have to use the airspace of three other countries. Changing the route will increase the cost of operating the flight as well as increase the duration of the flight by about one and a half hours. In this, the ticket price will be higher and the ultimate suffering will be for the passengers.
Diplomatic efforts to resolve crisis
Meanwhile, a responsible official of Biman told that Bangladesh has strengthened diplomatic efforts to solve both the existing crises. The matter has been presented to Washington for consideration through the Ministry of External Affairs. Dhaka is hoping for a quick positive response in this regard. However, no response was received till writing this report at night. It may be recalled that in 1981, the plane took off on the Dhaka-Rome route. Despite various hurdles, ups and downs, flights have been running on the route uninterruptedly for almost 34 years.
But in 2015, the Rome route was finally closed due to the indifferent behavior of the authorities along with the route change. After a long (about 8 years) break, Biman Bangladesh Airlines has already started selling tickets at a special discount to resume flights on the Dhaka-Rome route on March 26 on the occasion of Independence Day.

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