Expressing anger over regular delay of flights, passengers of Biman Bangladesh Airlines termed travelling by the national airline a curse.
"Biman has turned into a curse. Every time I came to Bangladesh from Saudi Arabia by Biman, the flight was delayed. The flight is delayed today also. It was scheduled for 3pm, and now it will leave at 11pm," said Md Riyadh Sarker from Cumilla while taking part in a public hearing over the quality of Biman's passenger service.
The hearing was organised by the Civil Aviation Authority Bangladesh (CAAB) at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport on Tuesday.
Riyadh had arrived at the airport a few hours before his flight. After a few hours of waiting, he was informed that the flight was delayed by eight hours.
Riyadh also complained of misconduct by Biman officials when he inquired about the delay.
"When I went to the ticket counter to find out why the flight would be delayed, they treated me as if I was a beggar! The on-duty officer was dealing with the representative of an agency selling tickets. Without replying to my query, he said he was busy with money transactions," Riyadh said at the public hearing.
Several other passengers also complained about harassment by Biman officials. This has been going on for a long time, they alleged.
Golam Mostafa of Lakshmipur has been living in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia for 33 years. At the public hearing, he said, "The flight can be delayed once or twice. The suffering of the passengers is beyond description when it is delayed again and again. Besides, it takes 2-3 hours to get the luggage. What is the reason behind this delay? It does not happen in the case of other airlines."
Hearing the allegations, CAAB Chairman Air Vice Marshal M Mofidur Rahman, the chief guest of the public hearing, wanted to know who was present at the public hearing as the representative of Biman. Although representatives of various domestic and foreign airlines were present at the public hearing, no one from Biman was present. The CAAB chairman then expressed his displeasure over this.
Later, Biman's Station Manager at Shahjalal Airport Arifuzzaman Khan appeared and expressed his regret to the passengers.
Arifuzzaman said, "I apologise on behalf of Biman. We will take appropriate measures to prevent such incidents in future. Passengers are very important persons (VIPs) to us. Our salaries are paid with their money."
Expressing regret to Md Riyadh, CAAB Chairman Mofidur Rahman said, "We apologise to you for the inconvenience. It was not right on behalf of the airline not to inform you about the delay earlier. We will make the airline accountable for this."
The Saudi-bound Riyadh Sarker said, "Passengers are being held hostage at Shahjalal International Airport. Here, we are not getting the service we were supposed to get at an international airport. The staff here think the airport as their father's property. They provide services in such a way as if we are beggars."
In reply, the CAAB chairman said that efforts are being made to improve the quality of passenger service. "We respect every passenger. We are trying to ensure that all passengers are the same, be it business class or economy class," he said.
He requested the aggrieved passengers to complain to the airport help desk, magistrate or the airlines.
Regarding harassment in getting luggage, he said, "Now the first luggage arrives in 20 minutes and the last one arrives within one to one and a half hours. If any airline delays to deliver luggage, we issue a show cause notice to it. So far I know, at present, there is no delay in delivery of luggage."
At the hearing, Touhidul Islam, one of the passengers, said, "My mobile phone was stolen from my luggage at Shahjalal Airport two years ago. When I complained, the on-duty official told me to come later. It was not worthwhile to come to Dhaka from Cumilla for a Tk20,000 mobile phone. I did not get back my phone later."
In response, the CAAB chairman said, "At present, we have made the arrangements in such a way that no one will dare to touch the luggage. You should have contacted again following your complaint."
Taking part in the public hearing, Georgian citizen Carl Auguston complained about the unavailability of Wi-Fi facility at Shahjalal Airport.
In response, Mofidur Rahman said, "Wi-Fi is available for all passengers at the airport's arrival terminal, but there is no Wi-Fi at departure terminal. We will arrange for the facility at the departure terminal soon."