Biman suspends flights to S Arabia for a week

Staff Correspondent

22 December, 2020 12:00 AM printer

Biman Bangladesh Airlines has suspended all its flights to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) for a week from Monday as the Gulf State has halted international flights and suspended entry through its land and seaports for at least a week to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Saudi Arabian Airlines also has suspended its flights to and from Dhaka from Monday.

Tahera Khandaker, deputy general manager (media) of Biman Bangladesh Airlines, said, “All flights to Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam will remain suspended for one week as the Saudi Arabian government imposed a restriction on flight operations.”

“Passengers of the suspended flights will be allotted seats on priority basis subject to vacancy after flight resumption,” she added.

Biman was scheduled to operate 4 flights to Jeddah, 4 to Riyadh and 3 to Dammam this week though it usually operates 21 flights to four cities – Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam and Madinah.

On June 16, flight operations on international routes from Bangladesh resumed after over two months of suspension.

A senior official of Saudia’s Dhaka office said they will follow the Saudi Civil Aviation Authority’s decision to suspend flights worldwide due to a new variant of Covid-19.

The sudden decision of cancelling flights has shocked the stranded migrant workers in Bangladesh.

Several hundreds of Saudi bound workers who went to Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport for boarding their prescheduled flights have expressed their concern over the sudden cancellation of international flights to KSA.

Monir Sheikh, a stranded worker, said, “After communicating for months with my Kofil (employer), I have managed to extend my visa and Iqama (work permit). I obtained Covid-19 negative certificate after being tested in the government-selected hospital spending Tk 3,500. Now I don’t know what to do.”

“I, along with my family members, have come all the way from Joypurhat’s Panchbibi on a rented microbus. If Biman informed me earlier about the suspension of flights I could avoid this additional expense,” he added.

Around 750 to 800 passengers were scheduled to leave Dhaka for Saudi Arabia on Monday through the prescheduled flights of Biman Bangladesh Airlines and Saudi Arabian Airlines.

Uncertainty has been clouded over their fate again. They claimed that either the Saudi authority or these airlines should provide them with compensation.

The stranded workers said earlier when Saudi Arabia suspended operation of international flights for two weeks during the early stage of coronavirus pandemic on March 15, the Gulf State took over six months to resume flights.

They don’t know when the operation of international flights will resume this time.