Reduced number of passengers
Zarif Mahmud: BNP has been agitating for a long time demanding the resignation of the government and one round of elections under a non-partisan neutral government. Several other political parties are simultaneously protesting with BNP. The party has been giving a continuous hartal-blockade program after the general meeting of BNP on October 28. Jamaat-e-Islami has also been holding these programs with BNP. The total blockade on roads, seas and railways has had a negative impact on the overall communication system including goods transportation, trade and commerce. Air traffic on domestic routes has also been affected. Regular flights of various airlines of the country have reduced passengers due to continuous blockade. However, despite the decrease in passengers, no flight schedule was disrupted. Not even a flight was cancelled.
Airlines transporting passengers to various destinations in the country claim that due to the continuous blockade by anti-government parties including BNP-Jamaat, an average of 20 percent passengers have decreased in each flight. If this continues, the number of passengers will decrease further. However, from the beginning of November to March, the pressure of passengers on domestic flights is the highest. Usually, no flights are empty.
According to sources of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, hundreds of flights are operated daily from this airport to Cox’s Bazar, Chittagong, Sylhet, Syedpur, Jessore, Rajshahi, Barisal. These flights are operated by national flag carrier Biman Bangladesh Airlines, private airlines US-Bangla, NovoAir and Air Astra.
From October to December tourist places are crowded with tourists. Tourists prepare with the goal of traveling at this time of the year. Therefore October-December period is considered as peak season for domestic routes. Tourist places are also waiting for tourists at this time, preparing to do good business. But this time, the opposite experience is being experienced by those related to tourism. During the peak season of tourism, political unrest has put a lot of worry on their foreheads.
It has also affected the airlines. Due to the blockade, travel to tourist destinations has decreased, and advance ticket bookings on airlines have decreased.
Airlines have also admitted that there has been a significant drop in passenger numbers at tourist destinations due to the blockade. General Manager (Public Relations) of US-Bangla Airlines. Kamrul Islam told, “The number of passengers on the domestic route before the strike has decreased by 15 percent on average. Passengers are decreasing especially in tourist destination Cox’s Bazar, Chittagong, Sylhet. However, despite the decrease in passengers, flights to any destination have not been reduced or canceled.
He said, ‘US-Bangla operates 70 domestic flights a day. These flights have high demand for tickets in November, December, January and February. Especially in schools, tickets were booked before the end of the exam. It doesn’t look like that now. If this trend continues, there will be more losses in the domestic aviation sector.
Private airlines NovoAir operates 23 to 24 flights a day to seven destinations including Cox’s Bazar, Chittagong, Sylhet. The company’s head of sales and marketing, Mesbaul Islam told, “There has been a direct impact on air traffic due to the blockade called by BNP-Jamaat.” Tourist destinations in particular have seen a 20 to 25 percent drop in passengers. As a result, several domestic flights of NovoAir had to be reduced, he said.
Biman Bangladesh Airlines is offering 10 percent discount on all domestic and international routes (except Canada and UK). However, in view of the tourist season, there is not much availability on domestic routes, said Biman sources.
Biman managing director and CEO Shafiul Azim called several times on his mobile phone but he did not receive. However, a senior official of Biman, who did not wish to be named, said, “Due to the strike-blockade, the number of passengers in private airlines is also decreasing. Many people are not leaving their homes for fear of the siege. And now the final exam is going on in the school.
He said, ‘I think this situation will not be normal before the national elections. Therefore, after another week or two, the number of flights may have to be reduced.
Mustafa Kamal, a resident of Kalabagan in the capital, is planning to fly to Cox’s Bazar from Dhaka on December 1. He works in a private company in Banani. On Sunday (November 12), a private airline ticket was booked through a travel agency in Fakirapool area.
During the conversation, Mustafa Kamal told, “Every year in December, I go on a trip with my school children. I am planning to go again this time. But now we have to think about our own security in the political situation in the country. The situation is likely to get worse with the upcoming national elections. If this happens, there will be no option but to cancel the ticket.
The top organization of travel agents in the country is Association of Travel Agents of Bangladesh (ATAB). The organization has three and a half thousand members across the country. The organization has been playing an important role in the proper development of aviation and tourism sector at home and abroad.
When asked how the flight tickets are being sold on internal routes during the strike-blockade, Abdus Salam Aref, the secretary general of the organization told, “Usually from December, people travel to tourist areas in the country and abroad with their families. Because there are school-college holidays at this time. But now people are in panic due to strike and blockade. No one travels with fear. As a result, airline ticket bookings have dropped by an average of 40 percent compared to this time last year. The travel agencies are suffering economically.
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