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Airlines count Tk1,361 crore in losses in Covid-19 lockdown

  • Published at 06:55 pm May 16th, 2020
Photo: Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

All commercial flights have been banned until May 30

Two months into the coronavirus pandemic, airlines in Bangladesh, including the national flag carrier, suffered a loss of Tk 1,361 crore over the months of March and April following the ban on all commercial flights.

If the situation continues further, the possible losses could add up to a further Tk 1,001 crore in the months of May and June, Civil Aviation Secretary Mohibul Haque told UNB.

With flight operations in domestic and international routes suspended amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Biman Bangladesh Airlines has counted a loss of Tk 939 crore while US-Bangla Airlines Tk 250 crore, Novoair Tk 32 crore and Regent Air Tk 140 crore till March-April, according to the senior government official.

“If the situation prolongs, then the state-run Biman Bangladesh Airlines will face a loss of Tk 780 crore, while US-Bangla Airlines, Novoair and Regent Airways a loss of Tk 125 crore, Tk 36 crore and Tk 60 crore respectively,” he told the news agency.

In response to a query about any possible retrenchment, Mohibul said, “In other countries, thousands of staffers of airlines have been fired but we don’t want to go with that. In this situation, the authorities have reduced salaries by 10 to 50 percent.”

Asked about the further suspension, he said, “If the aircraft income doesn’t increase, there’ll be a little problem. However, we don’t need any profit when the situation returns to normal, we just want to keep it functional after disbursing the wages of the staffers. We’ll think about the profit later when the situation will be better as we’ve made a profit of Tk 460 crore before the lockdown.”

“At this moment, the aircraft company will earn money from chartered and goods-laden aircraft, if needed; passenger aircraft will be used for carrying goods,” he said.

Asked whether the private airlines are disbursing salaries to their staffers, Mohibul said, “I’ve no idea about it, but they were supposed to have problems.”

Replying to a question about laying off at private airlines, Muhibul said, he didn’t hear anything about it.

Mohammad Mokabbir Hossain, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Biman Bangladesh Airlines, said, “An application was filed to the Bangladesh Bank seeking a Tk 1,500 crore loan as working capital but we received Tk 1,000 crore and it’ll be paid within the next one year with a 4 percent interest.”

In the state-run Biman Bangladesh Airlines, there are 600 staffers and the authorities are facing trouble to pay their wages, said Mokabbir. In this situation, he said, Biman has cut down the salaries of the staffers by 10 to 50 percent as per the decision taken by its Board of Directors.

Replying to a question, the CEO, said, “There’s no decision on retrenching any staff and officials of Biman. We’re getting money from the Airport Ground Service by operating chartered flights.”

Besides, Biman will not take any money on its cargo services from March 23 to May 10 following the request of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI).

Mofizur Rahman, Managing Director of Novoair and also the General Secretary of Aviation Operators Association of Bangladesh (AOAB), said, “We didn’t get any solution regarding parking, sitting and hiring charges and payment of bank loan installments after filing an application to the government.”

The aviation industry is under massive threat due to coronavirus situation as it has to pay the civil aviation charge, wages and maintenance cost, he said.

Sought comments on trimming down any workers, Mofizur, said, “I didn’t get any retrenchment news from anywhere. In Novoair, there’re 800 staff and we also paid the salaries of the staffers till date.”

Quamrul Islam, General Manager of US-Bangla Airlines, said, “There’re 1400 staff at US-Bangla Airlines and all the staffers got the wages for the last month and there’re no retrenchment as the management is positive about it till now. We’re now counting a loss of Tk 100 crore every day.”

“It’s difficult to say what’ll happen in this sector if this situation prolongs. Even if the coronavirus situation goes well and the flight starts, there’ll still be problems because tourists will refrain from visiting any country in the next few months while people will travel less,” he said.

According to the sources at Regent Airways, there are 700 staffers and after the announcement of lockdown, the authorities concerned have declared that they will refrain from operating any flight on both domestic and international routes for three months.

Amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) on May 14 extended the restriction on scheduled passenger flight operations with all countries, except China, until May 30, aiming to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

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