Md. Mahbub Ali, state minister of the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism, said aviation charges for local air operators would be reduced further as the Covid second wave had hit the industry hard.
He gave the assurance while addressing a virtual discussion titled "Bangladesh aviation sector amid pandemic: challenges and way out" on Saturday.
The minister said the second wave devastated the sector when it was about to overcome the loss caused by the first wave.
Many big airlines around the world had already gone into bankruptcy and shut down operations. Amid such a situation, Bangladesh's aviation sector is still surviving, thanks to government support.
"I assure you that the aviation charges, including aeronautical and non-aeronautical, will be reduced, subject to the consent from the finance ministry," Mahbub said.
Following the first wave, the government cut aviation charges for the time being to help air operators overcome cash crisis.
Regarding complaints about high ticket prices causing sufferings to migrant workers, Mokammel Hossain, secretary of the aviation ministry, said ticket prices were abnormally high despite various policy support to the air operators.
He said the ministry was working on how to bring down ticket prices.
Mokammel said the industry supports 1.29 lakh jobs and accounts for more than 3 % of the GDP.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) is also positive about considering a reduction in aviation charges, said its Chairman Air Vice Marshal M Mafidur Rahman.
CAAB requires Tk 1,600 crore a year, which came down to Tk 800 crore last year due to the pandemic.
Despite the difficulties, the authority will be lowering aviation charges to give relief to air operators, he said.
Mafidur also said air operators may have to live long with Covid and so should follow health safety guidelines and hygiene.
"We now need permanent quarantine facilities also."
As Covid is likely to stay long, CAAB is planning to go for special travel arrangements known as air bubble agreement with different countries.
A process was started with India, which has been suspended. Now is the time to go ahead with it again, he said.
Dr. Abu Saleh Mostafa Kamal, managing director of national carrier Biman Bangladesh Airlines, said he was in trouble with eight new aircraft as those had remained grounded for long time causing huge loss for the carrier.
Now, Biman's capacity loss is 47%.
Abdullah Al Mamun, managing director of largest private carrier US-Bangla airlines, said the carrier was facing 54% capacity loss on domestic routes and 70% on international routes.
Moreover, a rise in fuel cost and high aviation charges made it difficult for air operators to survive.
US-Bangla operates flights to eight countries, where the fee for delayed payments of aviation charges is 1% but in Bangladesh it is 6% which is too high, Abdullah said.
Fuel cost in domestic operations increased by Tk 7 per litre since August and in international operation Tk 14, he said.
The aviation sector is saving annually Tk 6,000 crore foreign currencies. So, the government should support the sector, Abdullah added.
Mofizur Rahman, managing director of Novoair, said aviation charges in Bangladesh is extremely high compared to other parts of the world. As a result, private carriers could not survive. Out of 8 air operators, only 2 are in operation while the rest closed their business.