Aviation experts say lifting of travel restrictions on domestic routes has greatly boosted domestic travel
The number of passengers on domestic routes has recovered to pre-pandemic levels amidst the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to domestic airlines in Bangladesh.
The airline authorities claim that strict adherence to government-sanctioned hygiene regulations and efforts to regain passenger trust has resulted in booming air travel, and they are on course to make a full-scale recovery from the impact of the pandemic.
According to data from the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB), the number of domestic tourists opting for air travel to domestic destinations increased by 75% to 80% between October and November.
Aviation experts say that comprehensive lifting of travel restrictions on domestic routes has greatly boosted domestic travel, even though the aviation sector is still in a state of recovery.
They also expect the domestic aviation industry to regain its position in the market in upcoming years despite warning that the government needs to take some initiatives, like reducing fuel prices, to aid their recovery.
However, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) says that global air traffic will not return to pre-Covid-19 levels until 2024, a year later than previously projected.
Moving past the pandemic
US-Bangla Airlines, which holds 65% market of the local aviation, says it is always trying to follow the government and International Air Transport Association (IATA) health guidelines strictly, and that passengers have been very co-operative in following them as well.
“Tourist visas are currently closed in many countries. However, many Bangladeshi passengers are still interested in travelling abroad,” said US-Bangla Airlines General Manager (public relations) Kamrul Islam.
“But since international travel is not an option at the moment, they are visiting different tourist destinations across the country.”
Although the number of passengers is not yet back up to pre-pandemic levels, it has increased considerably in recent months, said the US-Bangla Airline spokesperson.
Part of the reason for that is it is peak season for tourism. Since educational institutes are currently closed, families are taking the opportunity to visit tourist spots, Cox’s Bazar in particular.
The airline is currently operating some flights to tourist destinations close to maximum capacity, said Kamrul Hasan.
He said he expects the airline to fully recover from the impact of the pandemic within two years if it receives some assistance from the government.
Echoing his statements, Mesbah-ul Islam, head of marketing and sales for Novoair, said domestic air travel started rebounding in October after travel restrictions were lifted by the CAAB.
“We have recovered almost to pre-Covid-19 levels, especially in November when passenger traffic was close to that of December 2019,” said Md Mokabbir Hossain, managing director & CEO of the Biman Bangladesh Airlines.
He said, however, that air traffic dropped a little again in December due to various reasons including the weather, local elections, and movement restrictions in some places.
Current picture of air traffic
Currently, private local airlines Novoair and US-Bangla Airlines, and national airline Biman Bangladesh are combinedly operating flights on eight domestic routes: Dhaka to Chittagong, Cox's Bazar, Sylhet, Jessore, Saidpur, Rajshahi, and Barisal.
According to airport sources, a total of 1.5 million passengers took to the air in November, compared to 2.7 million during the same month in 2019.
Between June 6 and December 19, an average of 86 flights were operated daily by all the airlines.