Domestic air travel growth stutters

Growth in domestic air travel slowed down last year mainly on the back of one of the major carriers’ shift in focus to international routes.

Domestic air travel grew 5 percent year-on-year in 2014, in contrast to 10 percent growth recorded for the previous year by the Civil Aviation Authority, Bangladesh. Last year, 680,420 people travelled by air within the country.

Regent Airways, which focused more on international routes, however carried around 35 percent fewer passengers nationally last year, as it cut back two domestic routes due to high fuel costs, said Sam Issac, chief adviser to the airline.

The airline now operates only on the Dhaka-Chittagong and Dhaka-Cox’s Bazar routes and has instead diverted its resources to international routes.

“International routes hold immense business prospect,” Issac said, adding that Regent registered four-fold increase in passenger count on international routes last year.

United Airways, another domestic carrier, had around 2.35 lakh passengers last year on the domestic route, down roughly 3 percent, said Kamrul Islam, the airline’s deputy general manager of marketing support and public relations.

He attributed the slip in passenger count to the launch of US-Bangla Airlines in July last year. The airline now operates eight flights daily.

A comparatively stable political environment was another reason for the decline in domestic air travel growth last year, according to Kazi Wahidul Alam, an aviation expert.

Many people tend to avoid costly air travel in favour of other modes of transport in times of political stability, he said.

For instance, many travellers are now opting for air travel even if it is more expensive, as the non-stop countrywide blockade has rendered road and rail travel unsafe.

Novoair, which has been operating flights on domestic routes since January 2013, however, registered around 32 percent year-on-year growth in passenger count last year, riding on its increased seating capacity.

On average, the airline operated 7-8 flights daily last year, while the number was 5-6 flights in 2013, said Mofizur Rahman, its managing director.

In 2014, Novoair carried around 1.63 lakh passengers, up from around 1.23 lakh in 2013, he added.

Currently, the local carriers fly mainly on four domestic routes out of Dhaka — Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar, Sylhet and Jessore — with the Dhaka-Chittagong route seeing the most traffic flow, followed by Dhaka-Jessore.

Source: The Daily Star

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