Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Biman plan to resume Tripoli flights

Bangladesh Airlines plans to resume flights to Libya as it sees good business prospects from a recent surge in outbound migrants to the North African country, officials said yesterday.

The initiative is expected to enable the state-run carrier to offset the impacts from a decline in passenger flow because of a slump in the recruitment of workers.

“We are exploring the possibilities of starting flights to Tripoli as we see an increased movement of Bangladeshi migrants to the place,” said a senior Biman official.

Biman expects to reopen its operations to Libya after nearly two decades. The flights were halted then because Bangladeshi workers were no longer required for employment in the North African state, officials said.

According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET), 2,952 migrant workers flew to Libya in March, up from 610 in February.

In February, Libya began recruiting Bangladeshi workers again and its embassy started issuing visas, aiming to meet the nation's labour demands to accomplish a $130 billion infrastructure development programme. The programme is said to require over one million foreign workers.

Officials said Biman now offers Tripoli-bound migrant workers travel up to Dubai with its own flights and then hands passengers over to the destination with Libyan Airways in an interline agreement.

“We now carry more than 200 Libya bound workers a week. The remaining passengers are borne by other carriers, such as Emirates,” said the official. He expects the flow to increase further in the days ahead.

Hopes of a new destination for Bangladeshi migrant workers began to brighten after the governments of Bangladesh and Libya inked a deal regarding the recruitment of Bangladeshi workers.

BMET officials said the Libyan embassy has issued about 10,000 visas for Bangladeshi migrant workers.

“Every cloud has a silver lining. It will help us combat the recent fall in traffic due to a contraction of worker demands,” he said.

The global economic meltdown forced thousands of migrants to return from the Middle East and Southeast Asian countries.

Officials said Biman wants to operate two flights a week to Tripoli and would not cut any of its present flights to 18 other destinations.

“We will extend our flights to Tripoli. For this, we are examining various options like a combination of aircraft and route,” the official said. He expects the flights to augment Biman's revenues.

To realise the goal, a team from Biman is expected to visit Tripoli by the end of the month to evaluate and complete the official procedures.