Air operators have seen only about a 10 percent rise in the number of domestic passengers from the previous month
Aviation, the industry most affected by the pandemic, has not regained its pace – even ahead of Eid-ul-Adha – as passengers hesitate to travel by air in fear of the novel coronavirus.
Air operators have seen only about a 10 percent rise in the number of domestic passengers ahead of Eid, compared to the previous month. As a result, they have not extended the number of flights for the occasion, which they usually had to do in previous years.
Though ticket prices have not increased, air operators are offering tickets at the middle and higher price ranges instead of the lower range. As a result, low-priced tickets are unavailable.
For instance, tickets for the Dhaka-Saidpur route are selling for above Tk5,000, whereas the lower range is Tk2,500.
US-Bangla, the largest private carrier, has been operating around 30 to 36 flights every day since domestic flight operations resumed on June 1. Usually, during festivals, it adds a significant number of flights to meet the increased passenger demand. However, this Eid has not required extended flight operations.
"The number of passengers increased slightly, by 10 percent, ahead of Eid from the previous month," said Kamrul Islam, general manager of US-Bangla.
"Usually, during the festival, flight numbers are increased based on passenger demand. However during this Eid, air travel has remained depressed," he added.
Kamrul explained that this was because a multitude of health protection measures were creating too much hassle for air travellers.
"Moreover, the pandemic has reduced their financial capacity," he said.
Novoair, another domestic flight operator, has been operating around 18 flights every day; it did not include additional flights for Eid, either.
"The current number of flights is enough to meet the demand because passenger flow has not increased much, even for the occasion of Eid," said Mesbahul Islam, head of Marketing and Sales of Novoair.
Biman Bangladesh Airlines, which mainly focuses on international operations, resumed regular domestic flights along the Chattogram, Sylhet and Saidpur routes ahead of Eid on July 25.
Previously, Biman had suspended domestic flights shortly after resuming operations on June 1 due to a shortage of passengers.
It then focused on international flight operations instead of on the domestic market. As a part of that, the national carrier recently resumed flights to various Middle Eastern destinations.
It resumed domestic flight operations mainly to bring in international flyers from outside Dhaka, said a senior executive of Biman.
"Eid passengers are not the main target of the carrier," he said, adding that it has been operating two flights on every domestic route.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) has recently issued guidelines for the resumption of flight operations, with instructions for operators to keep at least one empty seat between two passengers to prevent the transmission of Covid-19.
According to CAAB guidelines, passengers will queue with a standard social distancing gap at the check-in points. The body temperature of each passenger will be measured by non-contact infrared thermometers and travellers with temperatures above 99°F will be denied boarding.
Briefings will be given to all passengers about personal safety precautions. Hand sanitiser, masks and gloves will be provided to each passenger during check-in.
Furthermore, a health-declaration form with three questions will be given to the passengers; they will all have to sign the forms before check-in.
During pre-boarding and boarding, a maximum of two rows of passengers will be called and allowed to board at a time.
Operators will ensure that passengers keep at least a metre of distance from each other while boarding buses that carry them to the aircraft and operators will have to disinfect the buses after each trip, the CAAB guidelines added.