If the decision to suspend operational flights from Dhaka was based on business reasons based on bottom-line considerations the grumbles would have been less vocal. The fact is that while it is a business decision, the matter is one of ethics rather than bottom-line. Admittedly, the ethical argument wears somewhat thin in days when ethical diabolicism runs thick. Effective July, Etihad's colourful and bold brand will no longer fly from Dhaka to Dubai. To honour existing ticketing arrangements a combine of code-sharing partners will ferry passengers to the oil-rich Emirate.
Such decisions aren't taken on a knee-jerk basis and Etihad must have tried to prevent the Civil Aviation Authority from imposing the local General Sales agency (GSA) appointment on the airline. The imposition went a step further. Etihad was given a list of agencies to choose from. The authorities say imposing General Sales Agency requirement prevails in many countries of the world and that is certainly so. What is preposterous is providing an approved list to choose from. The role of the agency is to look after the carrier's interest and it really should be Etihad deciding who they want. On a different perspective the concept of GSA is pretty old-hat. Many airlines function smoothly without GSAs and Biman has been forced to more so because of technical and staff inefficiency other than anything else. Etihad is one of the four Emirate airlines with hubs in Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi that jet out from Dhaka every day. Qatar leads the roost with three-daily flights followed by Emirates. Both airlines have a significant office function in Dhaka in addition to their GSA and nine out of ten passengers find service much better at these offices. Gulf Air runs blow-hot, blow cold and Oman Air made a silent withdrawal early this year. Absence of the GSA allows airlines to be more competitive in a cut-throat business where the slightest difference in fares can make a difference.
Competition ensures good business and is good for travellers but the Civil Aviation's warped thinking smacks of some really vested interests being involved.
Bangladesh doesn't need an additional rift with the United Arab Emirates over the issue. As it is, manpower recruitment to the Gulf have suffered following unruly hooliganism by a section of expatriate Bangladeshis. That they had good reason for their ire is accepted but no excuse for vandalism in a foreign country. The recruitment agencies that promise the moon and deliver little but earth are never questioned not just over ethics but also patriotism. If ever there was a case for closer cooperation with these airlines to further streamline travel of expatriate it was now. Instead of a healing balm, the fat has been thrown into a fire, the flames of which may leave burn scars long after the initial searing pain.
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