US-Bangla Airlines has started direct flights to the Maldives, said to be a first by a local operator, as the aviation sector looks to recover from the pandemic effects.
The private airlines expects $1 million in monthly earnings from the flights — three times a week for now. It hopes to raise the number of flights to seven a week.
At the launch at Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka on Friday, US-Bangla Managing Director Abdullah Al Mamun said the airlines has reduced the cost of one-way travel on the route to Tk 25,000.
Hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshis in the archipelago, most of whom are workers, were paying Tk 65,000 per flight previously, according to him.
Pharmaceutical companies are also communicating with US-Bangla to send drugs to the Maldives, a large market of Bangladeshi pharmaceutical products, he said.
“The foreign airlines took away the money earned on this route to their countries. US-Bangla will now bring $1 million a month to Bangladesh by transporting passengers and cargo on this route.”
Mahbub Ali, the state minister civil aviation and tourism, said the tourism and aviation sector suffered immense losses due to travel curbs during the pandemic.
With policy and cash support from the government, the Bangladeshi airlines returned to business in full swing, he said, adding that two more private airlines will launch operations along with three existing ones in 2022.
“I hope our local airlines will control a large share of the country’s aviation market in future.”
The first US-Bangla flight, a 164-seater Boeing 737-800, left for Male, the capital of the Maldives, with 129 passengers. It will take five hours to reach the destination. US-Bangla is operating the flights on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays.
The minimum fare, including all taxes and surcharges, is Tk 29,508, while a ticket with a return flight will cost a passenger Tk 45,545.
For tourists, US-Bangla has introduced a holiday package of Tk 58,990 for a stay of three days and two nights. The cost will be 64,490 for a tour of four days and three days.
US-Bangla currently has 14 aircraft, including four Boeing 737-800s and seven ATR 72-600s. The airline will add two more Boeing planes to its fleet as it plans to launch Dhaka-Colombo-Male flights.