Bangladesh frets over Middle East air fare hikes

A government official said he was meeting the national carrier, Biman Bangladesh (BB), on April 3. (File/AFP)
Updated 31 March 2019

Bangladesh frets over Middle East air fare hikes

  • Ali Haider, former secretary-general of the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA), said around 10 million Bangladeshis were working around the world
  • Of these, four million were in Middle Eastern countries

DHAKA: “I have been waiting for three weeks to get a flight to Saudi Arabia but couldn’t manage due to the high price of tickets,” said 35-year-old Abdul Malek, a Bangladeshi wanting to travel to the Kingdom. Malek got his visa in late January and is scheduled to start work at a cafe in Hail on April 1.
Fares to Middle Eastern countries have increased, and even more than doubled, with international airlines halting operations to and from Dhaka for different reasons.
The problems — higher fares, fewer carriers — is affecting the country’s manpower export.
Ali Haider, former secretary-general of the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA), said around 10 million Bangladeshis were working around the world. Of these, four million were in Middle Eastern countries.
“Although a few airlines have stopped their Dhaka-bound flights, it is expected that some more are in the offing,” he told Arab News. “So, there is no good reason for me to think why the ticket prices went up. I think some unscrupulous business syndicate is doing this.”
He urged the government to find those responsible for the situation, but thought the surging numbers traveling to Saudi Arabia for Hajj and Umrah could also be a reason for higher air fares.
Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury Noman, BAIRA secretary-general, suggested two immediate steps to resolve the problem.
“Authorities can increase the number of flights to different destinations in the Middle East,” he told Arab News. “In addition there can be regulations asking operators to give preference to migrant workers as wage earners and carry two-third migrants in each Middle East-bound flight,” he told Arab News.
He said the number of workers heading to the Middle East had decreased in recent weeks.
“Due to an anomaly in the flight schedule, many workers are delayed to join their workplaces on time. In many cases, this delay leads to expiry of visas. We have already submitted a letter to the civil aviation ministry requesting for immediate intervention and now waiting for their steps.”
The country’s expat industry is a lucrative one. 
According to the Bureau of Manpower Export and Training, 734,000 Bangladeshis went to work in different parts of the world in 2018. Of these, 453,000 went to the Middle East. The country earned $191,732 million in remittances from expatriate Bangladeshis last year, with around 75 percent of this sum sent from those in the Middle East.
A government official said he was meeting the national carrier, Biman Bangladesh (BB), on April 3. 

“I will have a meeting with the BB authority on April 3 to find out an immediate solution of the crisis,” Mohammad Mohibul Huq, secretary of the Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry, told Arab News.

“Two more aircrafts will be added to the current BB fleet by next May. We will increase the number of flights by two in July and September.”


Taliban talks resume amid hopes of deal

Updated 22 August 2019

Taliban talks resume amid hopes of deal

  • The disclosure came in a context of ongoing bloodshed in Afghanistan after NATO said two US military personnel were killed Wednesday
  • Washington is hoping to strike an agreement with the Taliban by September 1 — ahead of Afghan polls due the same month

DOHA: The US and the Taliban met in Doha on Thursday, an American source close to the talks said, for potentially decisive dialogue to allow Washington to drawdown militarily in Afghanistan.
The source said the talks started around 1300 GMT — the ninth time the two foes have met face-to-face.
The disclosure came in a context of ongoing bloodshed in Afghanistan after NATO said two US military personnel were killed Wednesday, blasts rocked Jalalabad Monday, and the death toll from a weekend wedding bombing reached 80.
Washington’s top commander in Afghanistan General Scott Miller was at the talks venue, according to an AFP correspondent.
The US, which invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban in 2001, wants to withdraw thousands of troops but only in return for the insurgent group renouncing Al-Qaeda and curbing attacks.
Washington is hoping to strike an agreement with the Taliban by September 1 — ahead of Afghan polls due the same month, and US presidential polls due in 2020.
Taliban lead negotiator Abbas Stanikzai told AFP Thursday that overall talks had been “going well.”
The talks are expected to focus on establishing a timeline for the US withdrawal of its more than 13,000 troops in Afghanistan.
“We’ve been there for 18 years, it’s ridiculous,” US President Donald Trump told reporters Tuesday.
“We are negotiating with the government and we are negotiating with the Taliban,” he said.
“We have good talks going and we will see what happens.”
But the thorny issues of power-sharing with the Taliban, the role of regional powers including Pakistan and India, and the fate of Afghanistan’s incumbent administration remain unresolved.
US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad sought to bolster optimism for a peace agreement last week when he said in a tweet that he hoped this is the final year that the country is at war.