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Two more airlines joining Bangladesh's domestic aviation market

FHM HUMAYAN KABIR | Thursday, 20 January 2022


Two more local airlines are going to be on the wing to bet on the growing domestic aviation market, getting buoyed by economic rebound and mobility surge, insiders say.

Both the companies-Air Astra and Fly Dhaka-already obtained the NOC (no-objection certificate) from the aviation regulator- the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB)-few months back.

Now, the companies have applied for Air Operation Certificate (AOC) before takeoff, they said Wednesday.

Head of Ground Handling of Air Astra KM Zafor Uzzaman told the FE that they were taking preparation to start flight from end of this March.

Besides, the Fly Dhaka is taking preparation to fly in May this year, said a senior executive of the company.

Bangladesh is now the home to only three airlines while thousands of passengers visit different destinations inside the country and outside the borders daily-in a mobility escalation that has induced suspected aviation oligopoly which jacked up air- ticket prices.

Among the operations, the state-owned Bangladesh Biman Airlines is the largest passenger carrier while the US-Bangla and Novo Air from the private sector are also operating their flights inside and outside the country's airspace.

Mr Zafor of the Air Astra told the FE that they had already booked three ATR 72-600 series of flights from Myanmar national flag-carrier.

Those aircraft are utilised for one year by Myanmar's company and now those are grounded for the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"We have a plan to start operation to every domestic destination gradually after March. We will enrich our fleet in the coming months," he says.

"The CAAB is now checking our every capacity. Our three aircraft will land in Dhaka next month. Then the CAAB will also inspect the flights. We are expecting the AOC before end of March for our operations," Mr Zafor adds.

A senior CAAB official, requesting anonymity, told the FE that they had already offered the NOC to both the companies.

Now they are examining all the capacities of both the companies before starting operations.

Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry Additional Secretary Sukesh Kumar Sarker told the FE that they are working to support the development of the local aviation industry through giving inputs in different ways.

"We are building a 3rd terminal at Dhaka Airport. We are expanding the Cox's Bazar airport to make it a regional airline hub. Besides, we have been developing almost all the airports to ensure better services to the passengers as well as facilitate development of the aviation sector," he adds.

The Ground Handling Head of the Air Astra, Mr Zafor, further says Bangladesh has a huge scope of upgrading its aviation sector as many people now fly to and from the country to different destinations, tourist spots every day.

"The number of passengers is up every month. After restarting the economy, the local aviation and tourism industry has got a big boost. Thousands of passengers are visiting different areas taking flights. The flow will continue in the coming days, too," he adds.

According to the aviation insiders, the Air Astra, owned by a Bangladeshi person living in Japan, will operate as the Astra Airways Limited.

On the other hand, Fly Dhaka, owned by local apparel company Shasha Denims Ltd, will operate as the Fly Dhaka Airlines Limited.

They said the Covid impact has already hit another local airline-Regent Air. For that reason, there are vacancies of over 500 domestic passengers daily.

In March 2020, Regent suspended its operation for three months owing to the coronavirus outbreak but did not resume its operation yet.

Now, over 30 international airlines are operating to and from Bangladesh across different destinations around the globe.

More than 10,000 passengers - many of whom are Bangladeshi expatriate workers- use Dhaka airport every day on average.

Nearly 100 flights are operated from the airport daily.

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