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Civil aviation ministry selects two private cos to operate hajj flights
FE Report

          The government has primarily selected two local private companies--Air Bangladesh and South Asian Airlines--to operate hajj flights to and from Bangladesh.
They have been selected out of six local private operators who earlier expressed their interest to operate hajj flights after civil aviation ministry decided to open the hajj flight to the local private operators for the first time.
Best Aviation, Bismillah, Air Parabat and Sky Bangla were other operators. But their rates of ticket and others issues relevant to hajj flights have not been accepted by the selection committee under the ministry.
The selection committee headed by the civil aviation secretary made the disclosure at a meeting that was presided over by the state minister Mir Nasir Hossain, a civil aviation official said.
Air Bangladesh expressed intention to carry 22,000 pilgrims at a rate of $ 1220 for each return ticket while South Asian Airlines 800 pilgrims at a rate of $ 1250. The ministry will seek cabinet approval for appointing the selected private companies, the official added.
The Bangladesh Biman has the capacity to carry only 4000 pilgrims.
The local private operators and the Biman together are expected to carry a total of 34,000 pilgrims though about 50000 people have expressed their interest for hajj pilgrimage this year.
Over 15000 pilgrims have to depend on international airlines such as Saudia, Qatar, Emirates, Kuwait and Singapore to perform hajj. These airlines might charge $ 1320 to $ 1360 for each pilgrim.
The Biman is unable to operate enough hajj flights because of aircraft shortage. It has to operate hajj flights at a government- approved fare of $ 950 per pilgrim. The state-owned airliner would incur an estimated loss of Tk. 200 million from its hajj flight operation.
Last year, Biman ferried over 23,000 Hajj pilgrims to Saudi Arabia at same rate of fare and incurred a financial loss of Tk 210 million.
Meanwhile, Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh (HAAB) has urged the authorities concerned to reduce the air fare for the pilgrims from US$ 1350 to $950 and arrange adequate flights for all the estimated 60,000 pilgrims.
Addressing a press conference in the city Monday HAAB leaders bitterly protested the decision of airfare hike to $1350 by different carriers following a meeting with State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism Mir Mohammad Nasir.
HAAB President Abdush Shakur said, "The cabinet decided to fix the fare at $950, but the state minister along with some airlines authorities refixed the fare at $ 1350 after about two months of the cabinet decision. It is absolutely whimsical."
Terming the minister's decision 'irrational', he said, "The minister's decision proves that he is keen to protect the interest of a vested quarter. As the people's representative, he must think of welfare of the common people on a priority basis."
Due to the increasing oil prices, air fare may increase but it could not reach a staggering figure of $1350. Flight expenditure from Bangladesh to Saudi Arabia is more than that of many countries including Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia, he claimed.
In the wake of Bangladesh Biman's (BB) inability to carry the pilgrims, the other flight operators have used this opportunity to increase the fare at an exorbitant rate. Just before the announcement by BB all other airlines proposed to carry passengers at $ 950, he further added.
The former president of HAAB Saleh said, "We will not send any pilgrim spending a dollar more as oil price in the international market has reduced in the meantime. It is the moral and ethical duty of the government to arrange flights with reasonable prices for the pilgrims."
Among others, HAAB Treasurer Ibrahim, Joint secretary Mahbubur Rahman along with the members of HAAB was also present at the press conference.


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