The expatriate workers who came to the country to spend holidays at the beginning of the year, got stranded here following the COVID-19 outbreak. According to the foreign affairs ministry, there are 450,000 such workers. Till July, all the international flights were shut. As air travel resumed on a limited scale in July, some workers got the opportunity to return to their workplace.

But there is an intense crisis of tickets as the number of flights is less than that of the passengers. The workers allege they are not getting any tickets after trying for days or paying more. Biman Bangladesh Airlines, however, said they are not making any new tickets available now. Tickets are renewed only of those who have return tickets with a six-month-validity. Biman says it is not receiving extra money for the tickets.

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Biman currently operates six flights on Dhaka-Abu Dhabi-Dhaka route, seven on Dhaka-Dubai-Dhaka route, one on Dhaka-London-Dhaka route, two on Dhaka-Kuala Lumpur-Dhaka route, and two on Dhaka-Gwangju-Dhaka route per week. Other airlines including Emirates, Qatar, Turkish Airlines are operating some flights for Middle East.

Air travel is still at a halt in most of the Middle East countries including Saudi Arabia. Those which resumed air travel, have done so imposing various regulations. No passenger without work permit is being given tickets. As the United Arab Emirates authorities have not permitted flight schedule for September, the airlines cannot distribute tickets. The airline companies could not issue tickets. On the other hand, the UAE has fixed the number of seats per flight at 240, but Bangladesh Biman has much more seats that that in its flights on international routes. So rest of the seats are remaining empty. This is another reason for the ticket crisis.

It is sad that the 68 expatriate workers sent back from Abu Dhabi had arrived there just on Sunday. The UAE government cancelled the approval of the companies and agencies that had mediated their flights. The workers were not even given clearance by the Abu Dhabi immigration authorities. The workers staged protests on their return to Shahjalal International Airport on the following day. They demanded government intervention regarding their return to Abu Dhabi.

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The culprits behind such harassment and deception of the expatriate workers must be probed. The Civil Aviation Authority, Bangladesh (CAAB) said they did not do any negligence. Then how could the airlines receive tickets from blacklisted companies and agencies? Those responsible for this must be punished.

All the transports and airport authorities have to follow health measures during this pandemic, that does not mean passengers have to face harassment without any reason. The passengers are ready to pay a higher fair for safe journey.

The expatriate workers’ leave has already expired. They had extended their leave due to coronavirus. If they still fail to join workplace on due time, they will lose jobs.

Many already have lost their jobs. It cannot be accepted that those still having jobs have to fall into trouble for tickets.

Immediate solution is required. The government should hold talks with the countries concerned.