The suspension of international and domestic flights, fall in air travel demand and economic uncertainty following the outbreak of coronavirus across the world continue to cause huge losses to airlines in Bangladesh.
Biman Bangladesh Airlines has so far counted over Tk 2.35 billion loss since the outbreak of the global pandemic and the amount of loss continues to rise each day, said Mohibul Haque, Senior Secretary of Civil Aviation & Tourism Ministry.
Although the operation of special cargo flights continues on their regular routes, all the passenger flights on domestic and international routes except a few with China and the United Kingdom (UK), remain suspended, said Bangladesh Civil Aviation Authority.
Biman’s scheduled passenger flights to the UK have also been suspended.
General Secretary of Aviation Operators Association of Bangladesh (AOAB) and Managing Director of Novoair Mofizur Rahman said the financial condition of the airlines is now very bad due to the COVID-19.
“We won’t be able to operate flights without government help if the situation doesn’t improve. The aviation industry is now under severe threat…how the airlines will survive when the movement of people came to a halt,” he said.
Mofizur Rahman went on to say, “We’re facing trouble in maintaining the management cost, civil aviation charge, payment of the installments of aircraft.”
During this lockdown, different companies have to provide parking charge of aircraft and rent for offices inside airports, he said.
“We’re urging the government to reduce the charges during this crisis moment,” he added.
On March 21, Bangladesh cancelled all the international passenger flights with 10 countries until March 31 that was later extended to restrict the spread of the virus.
International commercial passenger flights with 10 counties -- Malaysia, Oman Singapore, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Turkey, India, and Bahrain -- were suspended.
On March 15, Bangladesh suspended on arrival visas for all countries for two weeks that is still effective. Besides, passengers are not allowed to enter Bangladesh from all European countries except England.
On March 19, Biman Bangladesh Airlines cancelled all its flights to Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Besides, the Bangladesh Biman and US Bangla Airlines also refunded all the passengers who previously booked tickets for different destinations.
Managing Director of Bangladesh Biman Mokabbir Hossain said all flights are suspended until April 15 and it may extend depending on the situation.
All flights will resume operations after directive from the ministry concerned in this regard, he said.
The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on aviation industry due to the resulting travel restrictions as well as slump in demand among travellers. Significant reductions in passenger numbers has resulted in planes flying empty between airports and the cancellation of flights.
On 5 March 2020, the International Air Transport Association estimated that the airline industry could lose $63 to $113 billion of revenues due to the reduced number of passengers.
IATA had previously estimated revenue losses of around US$30 billion two weeks before their 5 March estimate. By 17 March, IATA had stated that its 5 March estimate was "outdated", and that airlines would require $200 billion in bailouts to survive the crisis.
IATA further revised their revenue loss estimate on March 24 and that is to be $252 billion globally, a 44 percent drop.
Bangladesh has so far reported 21 deaths from coronavirus. The country reported 330 confirmed cases as of Thursday.
The global death toll from coronavirus has reached 95,722 as of Friday morning.
There have been 1,603,719 confirmed cases around the world after the highly contagious disease was first reported in China in December last, according to worldometer.