Biman Bangladesh Airlines has turned to charter flights on domestic routes moving away from regular flight operations due to a shortage of passengers.
The national carrier is now offering charter flights at cost of Tk3 lakh to Tk5 lakh on the domestic routes for family trip.
Charter flight means a flight by an aircraft chartered for a specific journey, not part of an airline's regular schedule.
This is the first time any local carrier is offering charter flights on the domestic routes.
Passengers can book an aircraft for five hours for a short trip from Dhaka to Saidpur, Chittagong or Sylhet. After five hours, they will have to pay additional charges.
"We have introduced charter flights as passengers are not willing to travel with many people in fear of contracting coronavirus," said Md Mokabbir Hossain, managing director of Biman.
Moreover, operating regular flights is not viable amid a shortage of passengers. In this situation, Biman decided not to operate regular flights on the domestic routes, he added.
On the first day of the flight resumption on June 1, Biman had to cancel six out of seven scheduled flights due to a lack of passengers. The only flight operated on Saidpur route on the day carried only seven passengers from Dhaka and returned with 21 passengers.
On the second day, Biman cancelled all scheduled flights.
The operational cost for each flight on a domestic route is minimum Tk1.50 lakh. But a Dash-8 aircraft can carry maximum 35 passengers – which is 50 percent of its capacity – to maintain social distancing, imposed by Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh.
The airline will have no profit or loss if it can operate a flight with 35 passengers. But if the number of passengers is less than 35, Biman will incur a loss for the flight.
Under the circumstances, Biman decided to offer charter flights instead of regular ones.