The attempt to send the expatriates back to Middle Eastern countries has stumbled as most of the flights were cancelled on Saturday.
At least eight flights of several airlines, including Bangladesh Biman Airlines, on different routes have been cancelled on the first day after resuming special flights for expats amid lockdown.
Meanwhile, many expats, who came to the airport from different parts of the country amid lockdown, came to know that the flight had been cancelled. Those whose visas are near expiry remain at risk of becoming unemployed.
The airlines said the flights were cancelled as they did not get landing permission from Saudi Arabia and a shortage of passengers.
Dr Abu Saleh Mostafa Kamal, managing director and chief executive officer of Biman Bangladesh Airlines told The Business Standard, "Today (Saturday) six flights were scheduled to travel to Saudi Arabia and Dubai but only the Jeddah flight left Dhaka at 6 pm."
Mentioning the reason behind the cancellation of flights, he said, "We did not get landing permission for the Riyadh flight. Besides, other flights had to be canceled for passenger shortage as some passengers could not complete PCR test, some were Covid-19 positive and some have refunded tickets."
Asim Uddin, a Saudi-bound worker from Feni told TBS, "My flight was at 2.50 PM Saturday to Dammam and I reached the airport around 9am. But after coming here, we were informed that all Saudi-bound flights were cancelled."
"The authorities do not tell us anything about when the next flight will be. If they informed us, we did not face such sufferings to come here amid lockdown," he also said.
Biman Bangladesh Airlines flight to Riyadh (BG-5039) was scheduled to depart at 6:15 am on Saturday. The passengers reached the airport. But the flight was canceled.
For this, the expatriate workers protested at the airport Friday midnight. The airline, later, arranged a hotel for the accommodation of passengers.
Additionally, two flights to Fly Dubai have been canceled on Saturday. Besides, US Bangla has canceled a flight to Dubai.
Meanwhile, Saudi Airlines will operate flights from Sunday for migrants, according to the airlines source.
US Bengal general manager (Public Relations) Mohammad Kamrul Islam told journalists that nine flights will be operated from Dhaka to Dubai, seven flights from Dhaka to Muscat, four flights from Dhaka to Doha and one flight from Dhaka to Singapore in a week.
However, a flight to Dubai had to be canceled on the first day as they got only 20 passengers. Many are not able to reach the airport due to the lockdown. Additionally, Covid-19 test reports of passengers are also required, he added.
The Civil Aviation Authority Bangladesh (CAAB) has permitted 12 airlines to operate special flights to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Qatar and Singapore for the migrant workers from 6am on Saturday.