‘You cannot judge a whole sector through a few isolated incidents’
At the roundtable, former managing director of Biman Bangladesh Airlines, MA Momen, said: “Private companies do not have the advantage of any government backing, like Biman Bangladesh does. However, our aviation sector has seen a lot of development because of private airline companies. “
Momen emphasized that the tragic US-Bangla Airlines plane crash incident that occurred on March 12 could be counted as an exception as incidents like that are rare.
Hoping that the aviation industry would continue developing, Momen said: “I can guarantee that Bangladesh’s aviation sector has undergone significant development since our private airlines companies started their journey in 1996. After its introduction in 2014, US-Bangla has directed 36,000 flights. There is no reason to undermine them.”
The former Biman managing director also pointed out how aviation accidents always get much more exposure than road or waterways accidents, as air travel has always been more glamorous.
“You cannot judge the whole aviation sector through a few isolated incidents,” he said. “This will damage the sector further. The government should ensure a favourable environment for the growth of private airlines companies.”
‘A lot of development work was done at Shahjalal International Airport in the last six months’
Biman General Manager Shakil Meraj said that besides ensuring good services, the national flag carrier pays utmost importance to the safety of passengers.
“In the last six months, a lot of development work was done at Shahjalal International Airport,” said Shakil. “We have been able to reduce a lot of problems that passengers used to face in the airport before; for example, passengers do not have to wait for hours in line for collecting luggage anymore.”
However, Shakil admitted that there is indeed a lack of logistical support, and the time has come to pay attention to that matter.
While talking about Biman’s dedication to guaranteeing passenger safety, Shakil further said: “Everyone knows that the plane that was scheduled to fly to Saidpur from Dhaka showed technical glitches after taking off. Later, the plane returned to Dhaka and landed. However, there were some misunderstandings as to the magnitude of the problems .
“If you look at all aircraft accidents that occur around the world, you will see that out of one million flights, only one or two end up in accidents,” said Shakil. “There is no denying that airlines technicalities have improved, reducing the number of accidents.”
‘An accident might occur at any moment because of any reason’
Remembering victims of the March 12 plane crash, and wishing for a quick recovery of the survivors, US-Bangla General Manager Kamrul Islam assured that ever since the accident occurred, US-Bangla has been beside the victims and survivors.
“We are keeping in touch with their families, and also providing logistical support,” said Kamrul. “However, it is true that an accident might occur at any moment because of any reason.”
While discussing the government’s lack of support for private airlines companies, Kamrul further said: “In my 20 years of experience with private airlines, no hanger facilities were provided to private airlines. Even though hanger facilities are extremely important for safety reasons, the government or the civil aviation authorities have yet to provide them.”
Kamrul also said: “The Nepal plane crash did not happen due to any negligence on US-Bangla’s part. Before March 12, we have directed 36,000 flights with the highest security.”
‘Are passengers being guaranteed the necessary safety measures?’
On the other hand, Bangla Tribune Chief Reporter Udisa Islam said at the roundtable: “As common people, we have no knowledge of the reasons that could be behind a plane crash.”
“Immediately after the crash, the audio recording of the conversation between US-Bangla pilots and the Kathmandu control room was released,” said Udisa. “We are interested to know whether the recording was 100% accurate.”
Raising questions about whether airways safety or facilities are being ensured on domestic flights, Udisa said: “Before, people did not avail aircraft services as much. Nowadays, due to our dismal road transportation systems, despite the high airfare, people are choosing to use airlines services.”
She asked: “Are these aircraft passengers actually being guaranteed the necessary safety measures?”
‘The more people travel by air, the better Bangladesh’s economy will become’
Addressing the Boithoki, Managing Director of the General Sales Agent (GSA) of Bangladesh Air Asia, Total Air Service Ltd, Sadi Abdullah said: “Air Asia was forced to leave because of an unfavourable business environment, not because it embezzled money. Air Asia also paid back the government what it owed when it came back. But it could only return because of the availability of a favourable business environment.”
Sadi said the biggest success of Air Asia has been to create a chance for middle-class people to engage in tourism.
“Air Asia is carrying the tourism industry of Bangladesh forward,” said Sadi. “The more passengers travel by air, the better the economy of the country will become.”
‘There needs to be separate regulatory and service provider bodies’
Bringing in a touch of optimism to the roundtable, Bangla Tribune journalist Chowdhury Akbar Hossain said: “Of all the recent bad news, the fact that Bangladesh performed satisfactorily in the audit held by Federation Aviation in February, stands out as good news.”
Other than that, Akbar also commended the achievements of the three Biman Bangladesh Airlines pilots who are currently included in the Accident Investigations division of the International Civil Aviation Organization, and the Bangladeshi Executive Vice-President of the South Asian division of the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA).
“The pilots are only being able to represent our country because they earned the necessary skills beforehand,” said Akbar.
Akbar Hossain also emphasized the need for a separate regulatory body and a service provider.
“Bangladesh Civil Aviation has not been able to create a separate regulatory and service provider body. As a result, the service providers are regulating themselves,” said Akbar. “Even neighbouring India and Nepal have separate bodies. The government should pay attention to creating separate bodies to ascertain passenger security and the overall development of the aviation sector.”
“At the same time, Civil Aviation should increase its logistical support to provide regular check-ups to private aircraft and helicopters,” said Akbar.
This article was first published on banglatribune.com