Regular flights between Bangladesh and India resumed on Wednesday under special arrangements more than seven months after they were suspended in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak in March.
However, there has been a noticeable slump in the number of flyers, with air operators experiencing a 30%-40% load factor.
On the first day of the flight resumption, the local private carrier US-Bangla operated two flights from Dhaka to Chennai and Dhaka to Kolkata.
The passenger load factor was 30% to 40% on both flights, according to the carrier.
On the Chennai route, US-Bangla carried 32 passengers from Dhaka and returned with 34, while on the Kolkata route, the number of flyers from Dhaka was 23. There were 34 people on the return flight.
The minimum price for a one-way ticket from Dhaka to Chennai was Tk16,200 while it was Tk6,000 on the Dhaka-Kolkata route.
The carrier will operate 13 flights a week. Of them, six will fly to Kolkata and seven to Chennai. Before the pandemic, the private airlines operated three flights on the Chennai route.
The first day of the flights witnessed a declining passenger number due to some factors, notably obtaining visas, Covid-19 negative certificates, etc., said Kamrul Islam, general manager of US-Bangla airlines.
He said the number of passengers was expected to rise within a week.
However, ticket prices had gone up slightly due to the inclusion of some new airport charges, he added.
Biman Bangladesh Airlines will resume flights to India from Thursday, 29 October. It will operate three flights every week on the three routes -- Dhaka-Kolkata, Dhaka-Delhi and Dhaka-Chennai.
Biman used to operate flights on two routes, Dhaka-Kolkata and Dhaka-Delhi, before the pandemic.
The national carrier will run its first flight on the Chennai route from 15 November, according to the carrier.
It will fly on the Dhaka-Delhi route on the first day of its flight resumption. Some 41 tickets have been sold from Dhaka and 28 for the return flight, according to the carrier.
India has already introduced such air operations under special agreements with a number of countries, including France, Germany, the UAE and the Maldives, whereas this is the first of its kind for Bangladesh.
Under the special air arrangements, three Bangladeshi airlines — Biman Bangladesh Airlines, US-Bangla Airlines and Novo Air — will initially operate 28 flights a week while five Indian carriers — Air India, Vistara, IndiGo, SpiceJet and GoAir — will run a similar number of flights a week.
Five Indian airlines will operate flights on the Delhi-Dhaka-Delhi, Kolkata-Dhaka-Kolkata, Chennai-Dhaka-Chennai and Mumbai-Dhaka-Mumbai routes.
It may be recalled that on October 9, the Indian High Commission in Dhaka announced a resumption of online visa application services for Bangladeshi citizens.
As of now, visas will be provided in nine categories, including medical, business, employment, journalists, diplomatic personnel, officials, UN officials and UN diplomats, according to the Bangladesh foreign ministry.