DHAKA: Private airlines are interested to operate flights on Dhaka-Syedpur route, one of three routes connecting as many destinations in country’s northern region that have been closed for years.
The airport in the divisional headquarters of Rajshahi, popularly known as education city and also silk city, has also been closed for years on the same plea of incurring loss. Iswardi airport is also closed.
But, before launching the flight operations Dhaka-Syedpur route, the private operators demanded withdrawal of landing and navigation charges due to inadequate passengers on the far northern route.
Bhutanese Information and Communication Minister Linpo Nandalal Roy, during his recent Bangladesh visit, expressed keen interest of his country in using transit facility through Syedpur Airport.
On the same day, Civil Aviation Minister GM Quader declared resuming operation of Syedpur Airport "very soon" to boost trade and commerce in the northern districts.
In 2010, Civil Aviation Ministry decided to operate flights on all domestic airports, including Syedpur.
Asif Ahmed, Head of Marketing and Communications in GMG airlines, told banglanews that different airlines were compelled to cancel flights on the route due to non-availability of passengers.
“If we get passengers, everyone will operate flights on the Syedpur route. Earlier, we gave a positive response to the government about resuming flights. But, the government should withdraw landing charge, navigation charge and handling charge.”
Badruddoza Sagor, head of marketing of the United Airways, echoed his pleas.
Giving an example of neighbouring India, he said, “Their domestic airlines doing well as government has considered about all charges.” He demanded reducing surcharge.
Requesting anonymity, an official of Regent Airways said, “No one will operate flights at the directives of the Civil Aviation Minister--government should come forward to encourage the operators.”
Although the private operators showed interest in operating flights to and from Syedpur, State-run Biman Bangladesh Airlines has no concern in this regard, as they apparent had gone up in red following mismanagement and irregularities several years back.
Biman sources said the national airliner has no way to operate flight on this route due to aircraft crisis, while private airways thriving on Biman`s hiccups.
Kazi Wahidul Alam, aviation expert and former member of the board of directors in Biman Bangladesh Airlines, said, “There is an urgent need of support from government side to boost the aviation industry. Otherwise none will survive through operating flight on such a route like Syedpur.”
Industrial units like Uttara EPZ, Barapukuria coalmine, power-generation plants, hardrock mine in Fulbari, tea gardens of Panchagarh are facing trouble due to the shutdown of Syedpur Airport, he said.
Establishment of new industrial enterprises in the region is also being hampered, he added.
The lone airport of the newly-declared Rangpur Division with 6,800-foot runway was opened on July 5, 1979 and the flight operations continued till 2006. But it was declared closed on February 19, 2007 on an excuse of incurring loss.
On August 26, 2008, private airlines Royal Bengal Airways and United Airlines started operations, but their flights were also suspended on January 28, 2009.
However, local leaders of Rajshahi blamed inefficiencies and irregularities in conducting the state-sector aviation services for the crisis created. At a recent function of the North Bengal Development Forum in Dhaka they demanded immediate resumption of operation of the Rajshahi airport.
Ruling coalition lawmakers Fazley Hossain Badsha of the Workers Party and Shahriar Alam of Awami League and Rajshahi Mayor and AL leader AHM Khairuzzaman Liton are among the prominent persons who made the demand.
BDST: 1405 HRS, MAY 25, 2011
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