Dhaka: A total of 12 special flights are departing the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in the capital today, carrying migrant workers back to their respective work destinations in the Middle East, who were stuck in the country due to the ongoing lockdown.
Most of these flights have already left Dhaka Airport today, as of the evening, while some are still scheduled to leave Dhaka by tonight with “no cancellations yet announced”, said Group Captain AHM Touhid-ul Ahsan, Director of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.
Of these flights, Biman Bangladesh Airlines is to operate four flights, to Riyadh with 384 passengers, Dammam with 197 passengers, Jeddah with 211 and Dubai with 239; Oman Air to operate one to Muscat with 205; Emirates and Flydubai, each one to Dubai, with 247 and 60 respectively; US-Bangla three flights, to Dubai with 60 passengers, Doha with 102 and Muscat with 18 only; Saudia one to Riyadh with 225; and Etihad Airways to fly one to Abu Dhabi carrying 125 passengers.
Better than yesterday
The second day of special flight operations so far appear to be better than the first, as yesterday the return of several migrant workers to different countries, especially Saudi Arabia, suffered a major hit with cancellations of eight flights in total.
Of the eight flights, Biman was forced to cancel five flights -- four to Saudi Arabia and one to Singapore -- while Fly Dubai cancelled two flights to Dubai, and US-Bangla cancelled one to Oman.
Expatriate workers arriving at Dhaka airport to catch their special flights back to their work destinations in the Middle East – Photo: Monitor
These cancellations led to a chaotic situation at the Dhaka airport as about 200 Saudi Arabia-bound migrant workers staged a protest against these untimely cancellations inside the airport yesterday morning. These were passengers of Biman who claimed the flag carrier should have informed them in advance of these cancellations.
Several migrant workers gathered at the Dhaka airport and Biman's Motijheel office in the capital since early yesterday to catch their flights in Biman, faced unimaginable sufferings due to the cancellation of their flights.
Migrant workers claimed to go through such sufferings because of the lack of coordination and sincerity from Biman’s end.
After an inter-ministerial meeting at Dhaka Airport yesterday, Chairman of Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh Air Vice Marshal M Mafidur Rahman informed the media that they will look into the matter to see whether Biman had any lack of sincerity on ensuring the flights to Saudi Arabia.
US-Bangla, on the other hand, did inform the passengers well in advance about its cancellation of flight to Oman due to shortage of passengers.
The passengers of all the cancelled flights of yesterday were accommodated to today’s flights on the said routes.
Chaos at Biman and Saudia offices
While special flights were departing the Dhaka Airport today, hundreds of migrant workers gathered in front of Biman's Motijheel office in the capital and Saudia's office at Pan Pacific Sonargaon hotel for the second consecutive day to get their return tickets reissued for going back to their respective workplaces in different countries.
These migrant workers said their visas will be expired within next three to four days if they fail to go back to Saudi Arabia.
Several migrant workers gather in front of Saudia's office at Pan Pacific Sonargaon hotel to get their return tickets reissued for going back to Middle East – Photo: Monitor
Due to the chaotic situation involving several migrant workers in front of Biman's Motijheel office, a migrant worker suffered serious injury to his chest and face as he fell on a glass door at the entrance of the office building. He was then rushed to the Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
Staging demonstration in front of the Biman office, many passengers said they had to face untold sufferings and had to spend a huge amount of money to reach Dhaka from different districts amid the nationwide "strict lockdown".
But after reaching the office, the passengers are not getting information from the Biman officials on when they will be able to get their return tickets reissued, said a migrant worker from Sylhet.
Another Saudi-bound migrant worker said he was scheduled to return to his workplace on April 16. But he could not fly due to the weeklong ban on international flights from Bangladesh. His visa will expire on April 21. If he cannot get back in time, he will be in serious trouble, the migrant worker sighed.
No flight to Singapore yet
On the other hand, as of the second day of special flight operations amid the lockdown, there has been no flight to Singapore yet, leading to more sufferings for Singapore bound migrant workers.
Today morning, many of them gathered at Dhaka airport with banners stating requests to launch special flights to Singapore allowing them to save their jobs before its too late.
Bangladeshi migrant workers of Singapore gather at Dhaka airport carrying banners with requests of launching flights to Singapore before it is too late – Photo: Monitor
One of those migrant workers said Singapore Airlines had scheduled to operate a flight to Singapore tonight. But after making a long and tiring travel from Madaripur to Dhaka airport today, he learned that the flight has been cancelled.
The migrant worker further mentioned that he already paid SD 2200 as quarantine fee only that is mandatory after arriving in Singapore.
Even many have spent about BDT 4.5 lac including agent money, visa fee etc to get back to Singapore.
Some said, if they fail to reach Singapore by April 19, they will have to opt for entry approval again. This will double their expenses, sighed the Singapore bound expatriate workers.
But, in response, Director of Dhaka airport Touhid-ul Ahsan said, Singapore Airlines has not confirmed any flight schedule yet. “Until they confirm a flight schedule, by definition, there cannot be a cancellation in the first place.”
Regarding, Biman’s flight to Singapore, the airline’s spokesperson Tahera Khandaker said, “Special flights to Singapore are scheduled from April 20. If nothing changes, passengers will be able to set out then.”
Airport authority’s statement
HSIA Director Touhid-ul Ahsan held lack of communication between the passengers and the respective airlines they are flying in responsible for the struggle passengers are facing after arriving at Dhaka airport.
Passengers are suffering because they are not properly aware of the flight timings, the airport director said.
He added, “While Saudia did not have any flight scheduled yesterday, its passengers still arrived at the airport to catch the flights they mistakenly thought there would be, only to meet with sufferings.”
Thus, he urged better communication between the passengers and the respective airlines to prevent such mishaps from happening.
And from the airport’s end, they have an information centre, the director mentioned. If anyone wishes to call and receive information about flight schedules, they can most certainly do so, added the airport director.
However, it is not that the airport does not have lacks of itself in maintaining smooth operations of flights.
There is supposed to be flight information on the boards at the airport as well as on its website. Yet there was none yesterday and the same has been witnessed today as well. Therefore, passengers remain in confusion about their flight timings, departures or even cancellations.
In reply, the airport director said they would see to fix these issues immediately.
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