CAAB has temporarily relaxed restrictions and allowed the two airlines to carry more passengers
Over the last 10 days, a total of 8,427 expatriates have left Dhaka for Riyadh via 10 Biman Bangladesh Airlines flights and 16 Saudia Airlines flights.
Several hundred Bangladeshi migrant workers had staged demonstrations late last month, blocking the Karwan Bazar intersection in Dhaka, protesting over failure to get tickets to return to their workplaces in Saudi Arabia.
Many of the migrant workers had said that they needed to return to their workplaces in the Middle Eastern country immediately as their visas or work permits will expire in September or next month.
The two airlines are issuing tickets to passengers on the basis of visa validity. Passengers whose duration of visas are short are given preference.
Biman Bangladesh and Saudia Airlines are reissuing tickets at no charge to return ticket holders. However, some travel agencies are charging extra for re-issuance.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism has called for caution against fraud regarding Saudi-bound flight tickets.
Around 20% of the migrant workers – stranded due to the pandemic – work in Saudi Arabia. They are now hopeful about their return.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) has relaxed travel guidelines for Biman Bangladesh Airlines and Saudia Airlines flights to the kingdom until October 24.
After migrant workers protested over a shortage of tickets to Saudi Arabia, the Caab decided to permit Saudia to operate more flights to take back Bangladeshi expatriates to their workplaces in the Gulf country.
The decision was taken to facilitate the travel of Bangladeshi expatriates to various destinations in Saudi Arabia, including Dammam, Jeddah, and Riyadh.
Bangladesh has a total of around 10 million migrant workers who work in other countries. Of which, around 1.5 to 2 million work in Saudi Arabia alone.
Additionally, almost 700,000 expatriates leave for Saudi Arabia each year, meaning almost 60,000 per month.
This year alone 50,000 migrant workers travelled for work to the kingdom in January, 44,000 in February, and 39,000 in March. These numbers are below the average count per month compared to other years.
Meanwhile 40,000 workers came back to Bangladesh during the pandemic. They are now trying to get back to Saudi Arabia by Biman Bangladesh and Saudia Airlines.
Meanwhile, in 2019-20, around $4 billion was sent home in remittance, which was around $3.1 billion for the fiscal year 2018-19.
Caab decides to relax restrictions
According to an earlier directive, there was a provision to carry a maximum of 260 passengers in a large aircraft and maximum of 140 passengers in a small aircraft. As a result of relaxation of rules, the two airlines are carrying more passengers in their respective planes.
On October 4, the Caab decided to temporarily suspend the directives it issued almost a week ago on September 27.
According to the September 27 circular on travel guidelines for international flights, no more than 260 passengers may be seated on a wide-body twin-aisle aircraft and no more than 140 on a narrow-body single-aisle aircraft.
The restrictions came into effect from October 1.
Although the seating restrictions will not apply for Biman and Saudia Airlines flights to Saudi Arabia until October 24, effective measures are in place to ensure the health and safety of passengers, CAAB said.