Domestic flights resumed on Monday after being grounded for two months, but airlines had to cancel flights on the first day because there were very few passengers.
Biman Bangladesh Airlines planned to operate seven flights on three routes – Saidpur, Chattogram, and Sylhet. But it ended up running just one trip on the Saidpur route due to a shortage of passengers.
"We suspended flights on the Chattogram and Sylhet routes due to a shortage of passengers," said Md Mokabbir Hossain, managing director of the national carrier.
He said only one flight of Biman left Dhaka for Saidpur with seven passengers and returned with 21 passengers.
A Dash-8 aircraft operating on the domestic route has 74 seats. Following the guidelines issued by the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) and keeping at least one seat empty between two passengers, the aircraft can carry only 35 passengers.
"It is not possible to operate a flight with such a small number of passengers," Mokabbir said.
If passenger demand remains the same on the second day, Biman will not operate any flights, he added.
US-Bangla, the largest private carrier in the country, planned 10 flights on the Saidpur, Chattogram and Sylhet routes on the first day, but cancelled two flights.
"We cancelled two flights on the Dhaka-Chattogram route due to passenger shortage," said Kamrul Islam, general manager of US-Bangla.
He said the passenger load factor was 60 to 70 percent on other routes. There were comparatively few passengers on the outgoing flight from Dhaka, but the return flights were with the expected number of passengers, he added.
Kamrul said the passengers are still in observation mode regarding air travel.
Local airlines operated flights with a maximum of 20 passengers on the first day because people are not moving as economic activities are still on pause, said a senior executive of a carrier.
Moreover, due to the pandemic, people now prefer travelling in their own cars, he said.
India also faced similar difficulties after resuming domestic flights – Indian airlines cancelled 630 flights on the first day.