Biman Bangladesh Airlines (BG, Dhaka) is taking emergency measures as it deals with a number of cancelled Hajj charter flights due to passenger visa problems. In order to accommodate rescheduled Hajj flights, all Dhaka-Doha Hamad Int’l flights are cancelled until August 26.
The problems stem from mismanagement by Bangladeshi Hajj tour operators, which have failed to secure proper documentation or accommodation for thousands of pilgrims. According to a petition lodged with the High Court, travel agents delayed filing visa applications as they waited for accommodation prices to go down. Additionally, the Saudi Arabian government imposed new fees on returning pilgrims, which tour operators say they were not advised about.
“If they had known beforehand about the extra SAR2,000 (USD533), Hajj packages would have been announced taking that into account,” former president of the Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh (HAAB) Iqbal Bahar told BD News 24.
As a result, Biman was forced to cancel twenty-one flights leading to losses of at least BDT440 million (USD5.4 million), according to The Dhaka Tribune. To provide capacity for the rescheduled flights, Biman has reduced frequency and downsized aircraft on its Dubai Int’l, Muscat, Abu Dhabi Int’l and Kuala Lumpur Int’l routes which will now run aboard B737-800s instead of B777-300(ER)s. Additionally, Biman has wet-leased a B777-200(ER) from flyGlobal Charter (Kuala Lumpur Int’l).
However, load factors on rescheduled flights have been low, with around 100 empty seats per flight, as passengers and tour operators scramble to fix visa issues. Another two flights were cancelled on Thursday August 17, bringing the total to twenty-three.