Air operators experienced a sharp rise in the passenger flow on domestic routes this month, with economic activities starting to recover gradually across the country.
The number of domestic air travellers increased by 20-30% in August from June when flight operations resumed.
US-Bangla Airlines, the largest private carrier in the country, saw a 30% rise in domestic travellers.
The airline, which restarted operations with around seven flights, is now operating around 40 flights a day, according to the company.
The reopening of all airports had an effect on increased passenger movements, said Kamrul Islam, general manager (Public Relations) at US-Bangla Airlines.
Moreover, strict safety measures maintained by air operators helped to boost passengers’ confidence, he said.
He said the load factor of aircraft was around 50% in June, which has now increased to 80%.
In normal times, the load factor of aircraft remains at 70-80%, according to industry insiders.
In May, the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) issued guidelines, including a directive for keeping at least a one-seat gap between two passengers on a flight to prevent Covid-19 transmission.
The CAAB directed operators to keep at least 25% of the seats on a passenger flight vacant to ensure social distancing. Moreover, either the first or the last row of the seats will remain empty for coronavirus-suspect passengers.
The new guideline allowed air operators to carry 75% of passengers of their capacity after resuming flight operations from June 1.
Moreover, passenger shortages during the pandemic put the air operators under pressure of losses.
The increase in the passenger flow improved real load factor to 60%, considering 75% capacity.
That means air operators are still facing losses. While passenger carrying capacity has been reduced due to inflight physical distancing, ticket prices remain the same. For instance, passengers can travel from Dhaka to Saidpur at Tk2,500-Tk3,000 at present.
Meanwhile the CAAB reopened all airports of the country with the increase in passenger demand. At first, only four airports – Dhaka, Saidpur, Chattogram and Sylhet – were reopened in June. Later, in July, flights on Cox’s Bazar and Barishal routes resumed gradually.
Novoair, another local carrier, saw a 20% increase in passenger inflow in August from June.
The carrier resumed operations with only four flights which increased to more than 20 per day, according to the company.
The number of passengers increased at a satisfactory level, said Mesbahul Islam, head of marketing and sales at Novoair.
He said the reopening of airports across the country increased passenger movements.
Biman Bangladesh Airlines, the national carrier which focused mainly on international routes, increased flight operations on domestic routes in August.
Biman, which suspended domestic flights a day after it resumed on June 1 due to a lack of passengers, is now operating in full swing.