Marooned at home under a cloud of uncertainty for much of the last two years, they seemed to have finally found a silver lining when the world gradually began to reopen after the ravages of the pandemic.
However, their troubles weren’t completely behind them as another steep obstacle stood between them and their livelihoods — sky-high air ticket prices.
Against this backdrop, Biman Bangladesh Airlines’ announcement of a reduction in airfares to five destinations across the Middle East should ideally be welcome news to expatriates.
In a statement on Tuesday, the flag carrier said the decision was taken to help Bangladesh’s ‘remittance warriors’ return to their workplaces.
The new ticket prices on the Jeddah, Riyadh, Dammam, Dubai and Abu Dhabi routes will be effective from Jan 16.
But, migrant workers may once again have to brace themselves for disappointment as Biman’s sales outlets say that flights on these routes are fully booked until March.
On Wednesday, a visit to three sales outlets in Balaka Bhaban, Motijheel and Farmgate revealed that no tickets were available for the month of February.
“The reality is that all flights until February are closed as tickets have been sold out. We can’t even get into GDS (Global Distribution System) to sell plane tickets,” said Monsur Ahmed Kalam, head of the Association of Travel Agents of Bangladesh (ATAB).
“I’ve only seen Biman’s announcement on the reduction of airfares in the media. There is no word about it on the GDS.”
Asked about the issue, Biman spokesperson Tahera Khandaker referred to the announcement and said tickets would be available at a revised price from Jan 16, subject to vacancies. “It will take some more time for the issue to be settled. Those who buy tickets later will be able to get them at a reduced price.”
However, a senior Biman official, asking to remain anonymous, acknowledged that the majority of tickets to the Middle East have already been sold. “But migrants can get tickets at the changed price if any bookings are cancelled.”
Officials were hopeful that Biman’s decision to reduce airfares would have a ripple effect and see prices come down across the board. But the other airlines are yet to follow suit.
Marking its golden jubilee, Biman has slashed the maximum fare for a one-way economy class ticket on the Dhaka-Jeddah route from Tk 72,455 to Tk 64,820, including tax.
The maximum economy class fare for a one-way ticket on the Dhaka-Riyadh and Dhaka-Dammam routes has been lowered to Tk 63,123 from Tk 70,758.
Similarly, Biman reduced the fare to Tk 62,784 from Tk 75,508 for the Dhaka-Dubai route, and to Tk 58,542 from Tk 67,000 for the Dhaka-Abu Dhabi route.
The price of each ticket carries a fixed tax ranging from Tk 7,644 to Tk 9,680.
[Written in English by Turaj Ahmad]