The Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry has decided to defer the handing over of the management of Chittagong airport to the Thai International Airways by at least one month.
An emergency meeting at city's Biman Bangladesh Airlines office took the decision Thursday, less than two weeks before the Thai Airways is due to take over the management of the country's second largest airport.
State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, who chaired the meeting, told the FE that the ministry had been reviewing the deal on Biman's request.
"Biman will face financial losses if the management of the airport goes to Thai Airways," he said.
Thai Airways International signed a deal with Civil Aviation Authorities of Bangladesh (CAAB) for taking over the management of Shah Amanat International Airport in Chittagong for a ten-year period. The Thai Airways will pay a net amount of Tk 529 million during the period to the government under the deal.
The latest move may strain friendly relationship between two countries, sources said.
Under the deal, signed between Thai Airways International Public Company Limited President Somchainuk Engtrakul and CAAB chairman Air Commodore Harun Chowdhury December 1, the Thai Airways will take over the airport management from February 1, they added.
Alamgir said the decision to defer the transfer of port management was taken considering the plea from the Biman, and not because of the threat of movement by Chaittagong City Corporation (CCC) Mayor ABM Mohiuddin Chowdhury and resistance from Biman officials.
During a meeting with Thai ambassador in Bangladesh Suphat Chitranukroh Wednesday CCC mayor Chowdhury refused to cooperate on handing over of port management.
Terming the airport as one of the most important and prospective national installations, he noted that the management of such installation should not be handed over to any foreign organisation.
Chowdhury protested the move and requested the Thai ambassador not to advance further in connection with the airport management.
Alamgir criticised the latest stance of the CCC mayor saying that he (mayor) did not protest when the move was initiated to lease out the airport management to a foreign organisation.
"The initiative was taken during the previous government's tenure between 1996 and 2001," he said.
The Chittagong airport was constructed with the financial help of the Japan Government at a cost of Tk 5.71 billion and was opened for air traffic in 1999.
CAAB invited international tender in 2003 to lease out the management to avoid operational losses of over Tk 25 million monthly.
Thai Airways and Sharjah Civil Aviation Authority participated in the bidding. The government selected Thai Airways and completed the negotiation in 2004.