- The airline cannot provide return tickets to passengers on desired date
- Passengers claims that they have to pay extra money for reconfirming tickets
- Airline authorities claim they have permission of operating only one flight per day
- Biman Bangladesh Airlines has been operating more than one flight per day to Saudi Arabia
- Most of the stranded workers of Biman and Saudia airlines already reached destinations
Shaheen Alam (not his real name) works as a salesperson in a grocery shop in Saudi Arabia. He had come home by Air Arabia with a return ticket before the Covid-19 pandemic hit to enjoy his vacation and was supposed to go back to Saudi by June this year.
However, he could not fly back as flights were suspended amid the pandemic and eventually his visa expired.
After some efforts, he was able to renew his visa and had his ticket reconfirmed by Air Arabia. Still he could not return to his workplace as his scheduled flight on Wednesday was cancelled by the airline.
Similarly, thousands of Saudi Arabia-bound workers who bought Air Arabia's tickets cannot reach their destinations, said the airline authorities, claiming that Saudi Arabia is permitting only one flight per day for the airline now.
Therefore, they have cancelled many of their scheduled flights until 8 December this year.
Now, many workers are worried that their visa would expire and they would not be able to return to their workplaces as per their employers' demand.
"When I contacted the airline about the flight with my reconfirmed ticket, they offered me a new date for a flight that will go to a different destination – not the one I wanted to go to," said Shaheen Alam.
"Earlier, I had to pay extra Tk30,000 to reconfirm my return ticket. Now the airline is demanding more money for fixing a new flight," he added.
Another worker in front of Air Arabia's office at Karwanbazar told The Business Standard on Wednesday that his employer has asked him to return to the workplace within this week, but the airline could not provide him a ticket within the time.
Mizanur Rashid Bhuiyan, sales manager at Air Arabia's Dhaka office, told TBS, "The Saudi authority has issued a new directive according to which airlines can operate only one flight per day from a destination. Many of our scheduled flights have been cancelled for such a decision."
"Thousands of our stranded passengers were ready to go to their destinations. Now they have to wait for the permission to operate more flights," he added.
Asked about refunding ticket price, he said, "We do not have any system to refund money."
However, the Biman Bangladesh Airlines authority said they are operating more than one flight in a day to different destinations of Saudi Arabia.
Mokabbir Hossain, managing director of Biman, told TBS, "The Saudi authority decides how many flights will be operated by an airline. Now Biman is operating 12 flights per week in Saudi Arabia. There are more than one flight in a day," he added.
He mentioned that all of their stranded Saudi-bound workers have returned to their destinations except those who could not renew their visas.
More than one lakh Bangladeshi migrant workers, who came to enjoy their vacation, got stranded in the country amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Around 80% of them are from Saudi Arabia, according to the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies.
Most of these workers came home with the return tickets of Biman, Saudi Airlines and Air Arabia.
The visas of many Saudi-bound workers expired on 30 September and they were staging demonstrations for their return tickets.
Most of the passengers of Biman and Saudia have already returned to their workplaces after a huge struggle for tickets in September and October this year.
However, Air Arabia did not get permission to operate flight for some time, so that the sufferings of their passengers were lingering more.
The Saudi government has so far extended the validity of Iqama (work permit) and visa validity for Bangladesh citizens several times at the request of Bangladesh.