The Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism has initiated a plan to start regular direct flight operations between Dhaka and Seoul through a flight frequency agreement, as the number of Bangladeshi workers is rising in South Korea.
Bangladesh needs to bring about a change in its existing air service agreement with South Korea by including flight frequency to ensure flight rights in their territory for the commencement of regular flight operations.
The ministry has begun the process to make the necessary corrections in its air service agreement, said a senior executive at the ministry.
He mentioned that the ministry is planning to negotiate flight frequency and necessary changes in the air service agreement during the Air Services Negotiation Event of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), scheduled to take place in Saudi Arabia in December.
Regular flight operations require a flight frequency agreement between the countries.
The ministry has recently approved Air Premia, a Korea-based private airline, for non-scheduled or charter flight operations. Another Korean private airline, Jin Air, has also applied for permission for non-scheduled operations between Dhaka and Incheon in South Korea. The ministry has called a meeting to make decisions in this regard.
However, Jin Air has been operating chartered flights since the pandemic began to repatriate Bangladeshis from South Korea, with the permission of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Although the airline is still engaged in the same operations, it has not obtained formal approval from the aviation ministry.
The aviation ministry became aware of Jin Air's continued flight operations after the pandemic when Air Premia applied to start non-scheduled flights. The unauthorised operation of Jin Air raised questions about who is responsible for this, and the aviation ministry suspended operations on this ground.
In October, the ministry granted permission for the airline to operate a flight carrying 16 workers under the Employment Permit System (EPS) in response to a request from the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment. Currently, Jin Air has approached the ministry to formalise its ongoing operations by seeking approval for non-scheduled flights.
The difference between scheduled and non-scheduled flight operations lies in the fact that airlines offer charter services under non-scheduled flight operation permissions, while scheduled flight operations allow them to operate flights on a regular basis.
Although Korean airlines have obtained permission to operate non-scheduled flights on the Dhaka-Seoul route, Biman Bangladesh or any other Bangladeshi private airlines are not allowed to operate flights on the same route. This restriction is due to Bangladesh being in category 2 in the International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) programme. To change this category, Bangladesh requires approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the agency of the United States Department of Transportation.
However, a senior executive of the ministry stated that if Bangladesh has a flight frequency agreement, Korean airlines can operate direct flights in Dhaka.
In a letter sent to the aviation ministry, the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment stated that since 2008, 32,806 workers have been sent to South Korea through BOESL (Bangladesh Overseas Employment and Services Limited).
These Bangladeshi workers are skilled and get wages between Tk2 lakh and Tk3 lakh, which is contributing to improving their living standards. At the same time, their remittances contributed to the country's foreign exchange reserves. So, they want to keep sending workers uninterrupted.