Frustrated migrant workers took to the city streets to protest the abrupt flight cancellations
The initiative to send Bangladeshi migrant workers back to their desired countries experienced a major hiccup at the beginning as most of the special flights scheduled for Saturday had to be cancelled.
“A total of seven out of the 14 special flights for Bangladeshi expat workers had to been cancelled as authorities concerned of the respective destinations – Riyadh, Dammam, Dubai, and Jeddah – did not give landing permission and due to shortage of passengers.
“Of those cancelled flights, five were of Biman Bangladesh Airlines and two of Flydubai. The Flydubai flights were cancelled due to passenger shortage,” confirmed Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA) Director Group Captain AHM Touhid-ul Ahsan to Dhaka Tribune.
Contacted, Tahera Khandaker, deputy general manager (public relations) of Biman Bangladesh Airlines, said: “We were forced to cancel many of our flights due to Saudi authorities not giving us landing permission.
“The national flag carrier’s first special flight, which got cancelled, was on the Dhaka-Riyadh route. The passengers, total 314 migrant workers, were taken to a city hotel. They will be flown to their respective destination on the next available flight.”
However, later in the day, Biman announced that the Saudi Arabia-bound special flights will be operated from Sunday.
Jahidul Islam, manager of Bookings and Sales of Biman Bangladesh Airlines, said: “New tickets will be issued for those who brought tickets for April 14 to April 21.”
Meanwhile, the migrant workers, who were to leave the country today, blocked the road in front of the office of the Saudi Arabian Airlines in the capital’s Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel, after their flights were cancelled.
Earlier in the day, another group of expats protested in front of the Biman office at the Dhaka airport following the cancellation of their flight to Saudi Arabia.
The frustrated expatriates said that they are desperate for air tickets as they fear they may lose their jobs if they do not return to their workplaces in Saudi Arabia soon. Visas and work permits (Akama) of many of the migrant workers are set to expire this month.
The expatriates alleged that they were not informed prior to the cancellation of their flights on Saturday. They came to know about the development only after coming to the airport.
“I had to spend twice the regular amount just to reach Dhaka amid the ongoing Covid-19 lockdown. And then I learned that my flight was cancelled,” one of the expats, seeking anonymity, told Dhaka Tribune.
The worker said that they will suffer great losses if they cannot return to their respective workplaces in due time, adding that the national helpline for migrant workers did not respond to their calls.