PIA double Dhaka-Karachi flights amid staunch opposition from domestic carriers

The government has allowed Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to double its weekly Dhaka-Karachi flights amid staunch opposition from domestic carriers.The local airlines including state carrier Biman Bangladesh Airlines are incensed about the ‘unfair’ deal which they say will hurt their Middle East traffic.PIA has been operating seven flights a week on Dhaka-Karachi route with wide-body aircraft and carrying most of the Middle East-bound passengers. With the agreement sealed, PIA can now operate 14 flights a week.

An agreement was signed [on Thursday] and Bangladesh will get the same advantage on reciprocal basis,AKM Rezaul Karim, an official at the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh, told bdnews24.com Thursday evening.Officials with Bangladeshi airlines said they cannot even reciprocate the seven existing frequencies for not having the advantage of carrying passengers beyond Pakistan, leave aside 14.This is a meaningless agreement and it will harm the local carriers,said Shahab Sattar, managing director of private GMG Airlines.Why do we need additional frequencies with Pakistan when we cannot even avail ourselves of the existing seven flights a week?he questioned.

This is not in the national interest as this would only serve PIA’s interest to carry passengers beyond Pakistan to feed their Middle East and European network,he said.Bangladesh would benefit if Pakistan allowed fifth freedom rights to Bangladesh carriers to the United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom, he added.But Dhaka has given the enhancement without securing fifth freedom rights, Sattar pointed out.

“During the strategy meeting prior to the Air Services Agreement consultation, there was an understanding that the Bangladesh side may allow enhancement of frequencies to PIA provided Pakistan side allowed fifth-freedom rights to Bangladeshi carriers to UAE,said an aviation source familiar with the negotiations.The additional frequencies to Pakistan are of no use to the Bangladeshi carriers but would be used by the Pakistani carrier to take away our Middle East traffic,the official said, preferring to remain unnamed because he was not authorised to speak to the media.In the recent past, Turkish Airlines was also given fifth freedom rights to carry passengers between Karachi and Dhaka.This is highly irregular as two local airlines are already operating on this route. This decision was taken despite serious opposition from all stakeholders,” he said.

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