Vol. 5 Num 551 Wed. December 14, 2005  
Front Page

Biman still scrambles to manage hajj flights

Amidst gross mismanagement in hajj flight operations, the national flag carrier Biman Bangladesh Airlines yesterday chartered one more aircraft and started pursuing the Saudi authorities immediately for a landing permission for the 387-seater Airbus at Jeddah airport.

To carry 40,000 plus pilgrims to Jeddah, Biman requires three chartered aircrafts and it is still one short of the required number while the intending hajis are still passing their days in agony in the hajj camp.

Biman sources told The Daily Star yesterday that so far the airliner could make only one of its chartered aircrafts operational, a 576-seater Boeing 747, while failed to make operational another one, an Airbus A330-300, due to non-availability of landing permission for it from Jeddah, and it is yet to charter a third one, a Boeing 747.

After Bismillah Airlines had failed to provide two aircrafts to Biman even after signing a contract last week, Biman started its desperate search for aircrafts from other companies. It succeeded in getting one from Airluxer of Portugal and the Airbus reached Zia International Airport (ZIA) at 2:00pm yesterday.

But, Biman sources are afraid that until the airliner succeeds in chartering another wide-bodied aircraft, which may not be possible before December 20, the anxiety over flying all the pilgrims to Saudi Arabia for performing the January 2006 hajj would remain a reality.

However, situation at ZIA eased to a large extent yesterday after Biman authorities succeeded to operate three of its chartered flights carrying 1,000 plus ballotee (under government management) and non-ballotee (under private management) pilgrims and also managed to embark 194 more pilgrims on a regular scheduled flight of the Saudi Arabian Airlines.

Ending overnight waiting at ZIA, several hundred pilgrims finally made their way to Jeddah yesterday afternoon as Biman could fly out two DC-10s with 272 passengers each on board at 5:50pm and 6:30pm and flew out a Boeing 747 with 576 pilgrims on board last midnight.

Issuing a press release last night, Biman authorities assured that upon departure of last midnight's flight, a total of 3932 pilgrims would have been left Bangladesh and there would be no pilgrim stranded at ZIA.