CAAB chief says workers with Iqama will be able to go without visit visas and Umrah visas
After migrant workers protested over a shortage of tickets to Saudi Arabia, the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) has decided to permit Saudia to operate more flights to take back Bangladeshi expatriates to their workplaces in the Gulf country.
Speaking at an event at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka on Tuesday, CAAB Chairman Air Vice Marshal M Mafidur Rahman said: "We will permit them [Saudia] to operate as many flights as they want.”
He said that Saudia, the Saudi Arabian Airlines, had applied to CAAB two weeks ago on resuming flight operations from Dhaka. Bangladesh’s civil aviation authorities had granted permission on condition that the Saudi authorities would give permission to Biman Bangladesh Airlines to operate regular flights on the Dhaka-Riyadh route.
He also said that it had been learned that those with Iqama, a legal permit to live and work, could go to Saudi Arabia without a visit visa and Umrah visa.
The CAAB chief’s reassurances came hours after several hundred migrant workers demonstrated in front of the Saudi Arabian Airlines office in the city's Karwan Bazar area following a reported shortage of tickets.
Traffic on the busy intersection had come to a halt for about an hour in the morning because of the agitation.
Many of the migrant workers said they needed to return to their workplaces in the Middle Eastern country immediately as their visas or work permits would expire in September and next month.
According to media reports, some 30,000 Bangladeshi expatriate workers, most of whom came home amid the Covid-19 pandemic, are now trying to return to their workplaces in Saudi Arabia. CAAB recently permitted Saudia to operate only two flights.
Mafidur on Tuesday said that the Saudi authorities had given Biman permission to operate chartered flights only and not commercial ones.
He said CAAB was trying to have Biman operate commercial flights on the route. “We talked to the Bangladesh ambassador to Saudi Arabia today regarding this. The problem will be solved soon.”
Regarding the air fare hike, he said: “Saudi Arabian Airlines has said that it had not blocked travel agencies. Travel agencies are also selling tickets. But some local agencies are blocking tickets and increasing fares. We are trying to find them with help from the law enforcement agencies.”
Biman would not sell new tickets but would carry passengers who had return tickets, he said, adding that passengers would benefit if Biman could operate commercial flights.
On Monday, Biman said that Saudi Arabia finally had given it the green light to operate flights to and from the country from October 1.
In March, the kingdom had suspended international flights to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
On September 15, Saudi Arabia announced that it would partially lift its suspension on international flights to allow "exceptional categories" of citizens and residents to travel.