A few members of the present committee of the Association of Travel Agents of Bangladesh (Atab) are involved in the recent increase in air ticket prices, alleged former president of Atab, SN Manjur Morshed Mahbub.
At a press conference at the National Press Club, organised by some members of Atab on Thursday, the former Atab president also demanded the immediate intervention of the prime minister to stop ticket syndicates and the abnormal rise in air ticket prices.
"This situation has arisen due to lack of coordination between various government departments, including the Ministry of Expatriate Welfare, the Ministry of Religion, and the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism. The authorities have failed to analyse demand and supply and to take effective measures," said Manjur Morshed.
He said airlines operate with the permission of the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB). CAAB approves fares for different routes on all airlines but it is a mystery why CAAB does not take any steps to control abnormally high fares, by determining existing capacity and introducing extra flights accordingly.
"The authorities cannot avoid liability for abnormal price rises and the impact on passengers," he added.
Introducing a one-year open sky policy (providing adequate flight management as per the demand of each airline) to reduce ticket prices was also demanded.
Ticket prices to different countries, including the Middle East, are skyrocketing at present, breaking all previous records since October last year. The normal one-way economy class fare on the Riyadh, Jeddah, Muscat and Dubai routes was Tk30,000-35,000, which is Tk1 lakh to Tk1.3 lakh at present, and tickets are not available.
Domestic and foreign airlines are competing in increasing fares. As a result, expatriates, labourers, Umrah passengers, recruiting agencies, travel agencies, and tour operators are facing huge losses.
In neighbouring countries, one way tickets for these routes cost less than Tk40,000. Moreover, the return from these destinations is only Tk20,000-25,000.
The written statement further said that prices rise when supply falls short of demand. The coronavirus pandemic has reduced the customary number of flights operated by all airlines from Bangladesh. Presently, the number of flights has gone down some 60%. As a result, ticket prices have also gone up. Furthermore, the increase in manpower exports to Saudi Arabia and Dubai has increased passenger pressure.
Taking advantage of the situation, a few agencies, with the connivance of some dishonest officials of some airlines, have been increasing ticket prices through ticket syndicates and extorting a huge amount of money from helpless outbound passengers.
Some airlines have exacerbated the ticket crises through their sales and marketing policies whereby they book or block tickets without any name. That is why in many cases no seats are available on some flights yet later flights leave with many seats vacant.
Among others, former secretary general of Atab, Abdus Salam Aref, former finance secretary Abdul Hamid, former member of the executive committee, Mansur Alam Parvez, and general member of Atab, Anwar Hossain, were also present at the press conference.
Earlier, Atab's current committee held a press conference at a hotel in the capital on 7 December last year. Mansur Ahmed Kalam, president of the organisation, made a four-point proposal to the government, including a proposal for a reduction in fares for Middle East-bound flights.