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Scramble for Dhaka airlink

New Delhi, May 2: The airspace between India and its eastern neighbour Bangladesh is likely to be jammed with new airlines planning to take off soon for each other’s cities.

The Indian government is considering a proposal from Bangladesh to allow its only private carrier GMG Airlines to connect Dhaka with Indian cities.

Dhaka has made the formal proposal even as it has cleared India’s Sahara Airline’s plan to link Calcutta with Dhaka through a daily Boeing-737 flight. “We have received Bangladesh’s permission to fly to Dhaka and are now negotiating time slots at the Dhaka airport,” said Sahara CEO U. K. Bose, adding that he was aware that a new Bangladeshi competitor would also be in the fray in the skies between the two nations.

Bangladesh High Commission diplomats also confirmed that they had approached Indian authorities seeking to allow GMG Airlines to fly to India. Bangladesh is also seeking rights to fly to other Indian cities, including Guwahati, Chennai and Delhi.

GMG Airlines, which started domestic operations in 1998, will join Biman Bangladesh, which flies eight times a week to India, as that country’s second carrier. Currently, Biman manages to use up only about 60 per cent of the frequency of flights allowed under the agreement with India. Indian Airlines also flies seven flights a week to Dhaka. “There is scope for more,” said Bose.

GMG Airlines, which has a fleet of Bombardiers, has already tied up with Delhi-based Stic to market itself in India. It now connects Dhaka daily to six other cities within Bangladesh — Chittagong, Sylhet, Jessore, Rajshahi, Barisal and Cox Bazar — and operates 32 flights every day at an average of one (landing/take off) every half-an-hour.

Bose said his Dhaka flights will be linked to other Indian cities. “We will dovetail schedules so that flights from other major cities like Delhi and Mumbai can connect to the Calcutta-Dhaka link.”

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