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Dhaka Tribune

Why are foreign airlines eager to fly from Dhaka?

  • Number of airways to increase to over 40
  • Some eight million air passengers travel to international destinations
Update : 09 Sep 2023, 09:17 AM

Several foreign airlines have shown interest and are seeking permission to enter Bangladesh's aviation market in line with the opening of the third terminal at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka.

According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB), the number of airways will increase to over 40 following the full swing operation of the third terminal.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will partially inaugurate the new terminal on October 7.

Currently, a total of 32 airlines operate flights to and from Bangladesh, with four being Bangladeshi carriers and 28 being foreign carriers.

As of now, Biman serves eight domestic destinations and 22 international destinations in 16 countries.

According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB), some new airlines, including Fly Baghdad, Ethiopian Airlines, Wizz Air, Tehran Air (Iran), Air Canada, Air France, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), and Royal Jordanian Airlines, have shown interest in operating flights in Bangladesh.

Recently, the government has initiated the signing of bilateral aviation agreements with 16 countries, including Mauritius, South Africa, the Czech Republic, Spain, Latvia, Cyprus, Guyana, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Kenya, Brunei, Seychelles, Lebanon, Turkmenistan, Algeria, and Switzerland.

Moreover, the government has also upgraded air agreements with 14 countries, including Canada, Qatar, Luxembourg, Uzbekistan, Morocco, China, Libya, Azerbaijan, Germany, Malaysia, Iraq, Australia, Indonesia, and Cambodia.

Egypt Air recently started operating flights from Bangladesh.

Farhad Hossain, executive director and chief operating officer of Egypt Air, mentioned that Egypt Air has commenced flights from Dhaka to Cairo. Egypt Air has strong air connections to the Middle East, Europe, and the Americas.

Besides its own operations, Egypt Air is contributing to the advancement of the Bangladeshi aviation industry and the tourism sector.

Reasons behind the keen interest

According to data from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment, and CAAB, about 15 million expatriate Bangladeshis travel to various countries using the three international airports, including Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.

Currently, around eight million air passengers travel to international destinations using terminals 1 and 2 every year, according to CAAB.

CAAB also projects that when the operation of the third terminal is in full swing, about 20 million passengers will be able to travel annually. The passenger capacity will increase, offering an opportunity to enjoy modern services.

However, industry insiders observed that it is questionable to what extent domestic airlines will be able to benefit from the airport's modern services.

They further note that the market share of international routes will also depend on the future plans of domestic airlines and their implementation.

Foreign airlines currently dominate about 75% of the international route market, with the remaining 25% held by Biman and US-Bangla.

Moreover, more than 80% of the domestic market is dominated by the two airlines owned by the US-Bangla group - US-Bangla Airlines and Air Astra.

Meanwhile, Biman holds less than 20%, and the rest is held by NovoAir.

Prominent aviation expert Kamrul Islam told Dhaka Tribune: "Bangladeshi expatriates have played a role in the development of Bangladesh's aviation market."

Expatriates are involved in various professions in various countries, including the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Europe, and America.

He said Bangladesh is a large market in air transport in terms of passenger statistics, with a large number of foreign airlines becoming interested in operating flights to Bangladesh to capture the growing market.

Currently, around 3% of the GDP comes from the aviation and tourism sectors. If the market share of international routes decreases, it will also affect the GDP.

Industry stakeholders have expressed concern that the regulatory body should give priority to domestic airlines in determining the flight frequency of international routes.

They warn that if the master plan for the development of the aviation and tourism sectors is not properly implemented, all domestic airlines, including Biman, will face risks.

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