Unusual hikes in airfare for routes to Middle-East (ME) destinations have been making screaming headlines for no less than a week but there is no sign prices of air tickets will revert to their previous marks soon. There is a limit to cashing in on the desperation of the working-class people who are in need of reaching their workplaces in the Middle-eastern countries within specific dates in order to save their employment. Now different airlines are charging more than double the amount they did only last month for travelling to destinations like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Muscat, Riyadh and Jeddah. First, it was local airlines which raised the fare and then their foreign counterparts followed suit. There is no explanation except a weak argument of higher ground-handling cost in favour of the raise of ticket prices.
When airlines on other routes from Bangladesh are operating at ticket prices fixed earlier, why should airfare be raised on routes to destinations of the ME? Also, other neighbouring countries such as India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal have not hiked prices of air tickets. Clearly, the airlines operating flights from here to the ME stand out for their skyrocketing airfare. If it were fair business, they would have competed with each other and stymied their rival airlines' move to abnormally raise airfare. The chaos reigning supreme at the HazratShahjalalInternationalAirport over the restriction on flight operation there has helped the airlines make the most of the situation. Now the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism and the Civil Aviation authority seem to have been laidback in its stance on the exploitative nature of airfares.
The expatriate welfare and overseas employment minister on the other hand, has been pro-active in his approach. He knows how costly the move will prove for not only the expatriate workers but also for the country's remittance earning. There are reports that the forbidding ticket prices have forced some workers to abandon the plan to travel to their workplaces in the ME. If a worker can travel from Kolkata to Dubai on a one-way ticket costing an equivalent of Tk 18,000-20,000 or a Nepalese from Kathmandu to Dubai spending similarly Tk 20,000-25,000 in economic class as against Tk 65,000-75,000 for a Bangladeshi worker, the ill effect may be felt on the entire overseas employment from this country. Then those travelling to Mecca and Medina for pilgrimage and business will also feel the pinch.
If the anarchy in airfare on the ME routes continues, the number one sufferer will, of course, be the expatriate worker but those carrying out export businesses in particular will also find it a hard time. Airlines cannot hold hostage expatriate workers and businesspeople in order to maximise profit. Well, the airlines can do so at the cost of their reputation. The Association of Travel Agents of Bangladesh (ATAB) and the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agency (BAIRA) have expressed their deep concern at the hefty hike in airfare. The issue can be taken up with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) that protects the rights of passengers. Bangladesh Biman, on the other hand, can show the way by reducing prices to a reasonable level.