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Jan 23
Business & Politics
Singapore Airlines cuts Dhaka flights in turmoi


Singapore Airlines (SIA) has cut two of its flights from Dhaka as it is receiving less than expected passengers due to the global economic downturn that forced the leading carrier to suspend more than 200 flights worldwide.

The carrier said it would operate five weekly flights from Dhaka from February 16, instead of the present daily flights. Its Monday and Friday flights will remain suspended until March 27.

Meanwhile, Association of Travel Agents of Bangladesh (ATAB) President MA Muhaimin Saleh expressed concerns over the decline in the air travel ticketing rate, saying that the overall ticketing by travellers has slumped by about 16 percent to about 27.5 lakh in 2008 from about 33 lakh a year ago.

The ATAB president said the overall slowdown, worsened by a drop in new recruitment in the Middle Eastern countries, is likely to affect the local aviation market.

Saleh also attributed the fall in travel for business and leisure to the global economic meltdown and a rise in travel costs after the carriers raised fares to cope with previous oil price rises.

“It’s an impact of the global recession,” he said.

Despite drops in airfare in response to the slump in jet fuel prices, fares remain relatively high. The reduction in fare has not come in line with the drop in jet fuel prices,” Saleh added.

The Southeast Asian carrier, Singapore Airlines, cut flights from Dhaka months after Thai Airways, the airline from neighbouring Thailand, had suspended operations from Chittagong and reduced the number of flights from Dhaka due to slowing demand.

Thai Airways, which had earlier revealed a plan to resume flights by February, sought $974 million in loans from financial institutions in working capital and debt refinancing, after being hit by recent shutdowns of Bangkok airports.

“We are receiving a less than expected volume of passengers from here. The whole global environment is bleak and not only us, but many airlines are also cutting their flights,” a senior official of Singapore Airlines in Dhaka told The Daily Star yesterday.

The airline, described for years by analysts as the best-run and most profitable airline in the world, announced the cancellation of more than 200 flights to China, India and Australia in response to falling passenger numbers.

The cut in flights by Thai Airways and Singapore Airlines came at a time when the International Air Transport Association (IATA) feared that the Asia-Pacific carriers will be badly hit with more than doubling of losses, to $1.1 billion in 2009 from $500 million this year. These Asia-Pacific carriers account for nearly a third of global passenger traffic and 45 percent of the global cargo market.

In Dhaka, Singapore Airlines is operating as one of the top carriers, banking mainly on business travellers and holidaymakers.

Presently, it is competing with state-run Biman, Best Air and Indian budget carrier Air India Express. The latter is operating from Dhaka to Singapore via Kolkata.

Industry insiders said around 4,000 passengers had earlier travelled to Singapore a month with the carrier attracting businesspeople, medical treatment seekers and tourists.

Officials of the SIA said the cut in flights is a temporary measure.

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