Monday, 30th October 2017

E- paper

India's visa ban to snap air link with Dhaka

Twelve to sixteen flights operate between Calcutta and Dhaka daily, carrying around 1000 passengers in each direction

By Sanjay Mandal in Calcutta
  • Published 13.03.20, 1:43 AM
  • Updated 13.03.20, 1:43 AM
  • 2 mins read
A board at the airport’s immigration area displays the names of the countries passengers from where will be directed to special immigration counters for coronavirus check Telegraph picture

Air links between Calcutta and Dhaka could be snapped from next week following India’s decision to suspend visas from March 13 to April 15 because of the coronavirus outbreak.

On Thursday, representatives of several airlines operating between Calcutta and Dhaka told the Calcutta airport authorities that they would not be able to operate flights because of lack of passengers.

More than 80 per cent of the passengers on these flights are Bangladeshis and the rest Indians. A large number of Bangladeshis come to Calcutta for treatment and business. Some fly onwards to Mumbai.

Twelve to 16 flights operate between Calcutta and Dhaka daily. “The flights carry around 1,000 passengers in each direction daily,” an official at the Calcutta airport said.

The bureau of immigration, which functions under the ministry of home affairs, has issued a statement saying all visas — except diplomatic, official and work visas — have been suspended from March 13 till April 15.

Some of the Bangladeshi airlines said they would be flying empty aircraft to Calcutta on Saturday and Sunday to fly back Bangladeshis.

“We have decided to suspend operations for the time being because if Bangladeshi nationals are not allowed to enter India, flights would run empty,” said an official of the Bangladesh-based Regent Airways. The airline operates two flights a day on the Calcutta-Dhaka-Chittagong route.

“On Saturday and Sunday, we’ll bring empty flights from Dhaka and fly Bangladeshi passengers from Calcutta. After that, we’ll stop operations for the time being,” said the official. The airline will be in touch with the Bangladesh deputy high commission in Calcutta for updates on the number of people needed to be flown back home.

US Bangla Airlines, another Bangladesh-based carrier, is also planning to suspend flights from Monday, said an official. “Already, the number of passengers has come down. Post-visa cancellation, the flights will run empty,” he said.

Biman Bangladesh officials said they would take a call in a day or two.

Sources in SpiceJet, which flies to Dhaka, said the management would decide on suspending operations on the sector in a day or two. Some other airlines, too, are considering a similar step.

The passenger count at the Calcutta airport has been declining since the coronavirus outbreak. On Wednesday, the airport handled 26,602 domestic and 2,596 international passengers. In January, on an average, the airport handled more than 9,000 international passengers daily. In February, the count stood at 8,500.

The domestic sector, too, has been witnessing a sharp drop in the passenger count.