Ref:There will be no flights of Biman Bangladesh Airlines today and tomorrow.
For the first time in over two decades Biman has cancelled all international and domestic flights for two days.
Hajj flights, however, will take to the sky as per schedule.
“The airline has cancelled all its flights on domestic and international routes other than hajj operation,” said Khan Musharraf Hussein, head of Biman public relations, on behalf of Biman Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Muhammad Zakiul Islam.
“Considering the humiliation and suffering of our esteemed passengers at the airport, we are compelled to announce the cancellation for Friday [today] and Saturday [tomorrow],” he told The Daily Star over telephone yesterday.
Biman cancelled eight flights, including six of its 12 international ones, scheduled for yesterday.
Biman yesterday cancelled flights to Kathmandu, Kolkata, New Delhi, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Bahrain-Kuwait as it failed to get any pilots for the planes.
The Dhaka-Bangkok flight was delayed for over eight hours yesterday.
Hajj flights were on schedule.
With the clock ticking on the Biman management’s ultimatum for its pilots on strike, the standoff continues throwing flight schedule into disarray.
Agitating Biman pilots and the management are standing their grounds.
Biman MD and CEO Muhammad Zakiul Islam yesterday reiterated Biman’s stance on the issue. He said stern action would be taken against pilots on strike if they do not join work within 48 hours. The countdown started at 11:00am yesterday.
The pilots said they would not call off their strike unless the authorities concerned cancel the flight-duty-suspension orders for four crewmembers and show-cause notices issued against some others since October 20.
As of yesterday, nearly 60 pilots refrained from flying and reported that they were sick, which had forced Biman to change aircraft and use leased planes that are run by foreign crew.
Biman even tried using its senior pilots, who hold positions in the management and those working under contracts, to get planes in the air. It also merged passengers of different flights and put them on one flight to reduce the backlog.
Earlier, during a news conference at Biman headquarters yesterday Zakiul had said, “We will do everything to keep flights going.”
He mentioned stern action against agitating pilots who would fail to join work before the deadline expires but remained sketchy about what those actions would actually be.
“It cannot be told in advance,” he said, adding, “We have not created the situation deliberately but we are trying so that passengers face no hassle.”
Bangladesh Airline Pilots’ Association (BAPA) General Secretary Captain MA Basit Mahtab said they were firm on their stance and they would not join work unless Biman unconditionally withdraws the flight-duty-suspension orders issued against four crewmembers.
Mahtab had earlier claimed to have the backing of 110 Biman pilots out of 116 in the protest that began on October 22.
The row between pilots and Biman started after the airline increased the retirement age of pilots from 57 to 62 years through an order issued on September 9.
Biman, however, said it would not provide pilots over 57 years with various benefits, including rehabilitation and insurance benefits if a pilot loses his or her wings for medical reasons.
The national flag carrier also said pilots between 57 and 62 would be out of the purview of the existing accord between Biman and BAPA.
But pilots, citing a provision for consulting them in the present agreement, said the pilots over 57 should be covered by the existing contract.
They say Biman acted on its own without talking to the pilots.
“We have no objection to increase retirement age. But what we say is that Biman has violated the accord,” said Mahtab.
The Biman managing director, however, said the authorities had increased the retirement ages based on the proposal of the pilots.
In early October, some pilots challenged the Biman decision to increase retirement age at the High Court.
The Biman MD claimed that pilots went to the court without lodging their complaints with Biman. “They could have come to us to discuss the matter between September 9 and October 4,” he said.
He hinted that conflict among pilots is causing Biman problems.
Mahtab claimed they tried to talk to the Biman management on the issue and related issues but Biman did not pay any heed to them.
On October 22, pilots started protesting by only doing their duty described in the accord between BAPA and Biman and nothing more.
Biman said it is not interested in resolving the dispute through negotiation as the matter is under trial at the High Court, which is expected to deliver a verdict by November 4.
“The issue will be settled in court. The honourable court decides on the cases under trail. Others have nothing to do with it,” said Zakiul.