Biman Bangladesh Airlines has been struggling to operate its scheduled flights due to the reluctance of the pilots to fly beyond the terms of contracts till their salaries are readjusted.
Consequently, flights are not departing in time on many routes due to a lack of cockpit crew. Passengers, especially those travelling to the Middle East, are facing immense suffering for long waits in the airports.
“They have been cutting our salaries for about one and a half years. We are frontliners. How they could deduct our salaries? If they decided to cut salaries through issuing a letter, then how they continued deducting our salaries but readjusting the salaries of other staffs at the same time,” said Mahbubur Rahman, president of Bangladesh Airlines Pilots’ Association (BAPA).
“Our question is why the authorities are not adjusting our salaries. We have not waged any movement but somehow some of the flights of Biman are missing the schedules,” he added. Ordinary passengers are being the worst sufferers of this situation.
“My flight was scheduled to leave Dhaka for Jeddah at 6:45 pm. When the Biman authorities failed to maintain its schedule, they assured that the flight would depart at 7:30 pm but they missed the schedule again,” said Muaz Ahmed, a Biman passenger, on Wednesday. “They finally told us that the flight will depart at 8:30 pm. Now only the Allah knows whether they would be able to keep their words or not,” he added.
Rabiul Islam, another Saudi-bound Biman passenger, said, “There is no system in Biman Bangladesh Airlines. Officials are not professional. Passengers need to go from one desk to another to get information on their flights.”
The national flag carrier authorities have said that they are trying to resolve the issue through negotiations with the pilots but they are not sure when a permanent solution will be found.
According to Biman sources, the national flag carrier is now operating flights on 18 international routes every day.
The pilots said they are supposed to fly 75 hours and have eight days of holiday a month in line with a contract between Biman and BAPA.
As many as 157 pilots are on the payroll of Biman. They have been hit with a reduction in pay ranging from 25 per cent to 50 per cent of their salary since May 2020.
Salaries of other Biman officials have been adjusted in July this year but the pilots have been kept out of this process.
On July 14 this year, Biman pilots threatened that they would refrain from flying additional flights if the authorities fail to address salary disparity between its pilots and other employees by July 30.
They waged movement and stopped operating extra flights several times even after that deadline but didn’t get what they were demanding for.
According to Biman authorities, pilots working as cockpit crew between zero and five years are not facing any pay cuts.
Crew members, including pilots, working for over five years to 10 years will receive a 5 per cent cut, while those working for more than 10 years will get 25 per cent less salary.
The pilots, however, said they stopped receiving overseas allowances, amounting to 20 per cent of the salaries, so the pay cut, in reality, was 45 per cent as opposed to 25 per cent.
It means those who will receive 5 per cent pay cut will get 25 percent less, they said.