_A Monitor Report
Dhaka : Bangladesh and Bhutan signed a Memo-randum of Understanding (MoU) on December 20 to increase air connectivity between the two countries. The signing of the MoU took place after nearly an hour of bilateral talks where the two sides discussed the agreement in detail.
Air Vice Marshal Mahmud Hussain, Chairman, Civil Aviation Authority of Bang-ladesh (CAAB) led the Bangladesh delegation while Dasho Kinley Dorji, Secre-tary, Ministry of Information and Communications, Royal Government of Bhutan led the Bhutan delegation.
Chairman, CAAB was aided in the talks by Group Captain Shafiqul Alam, Member (Operations and Planning), Wing Commander SM Nazmul Anam, Director, Flight Safety and Regulations, Md Nurul Islam, Deputy Director, Air Transport and Regula-tions, Prasanta Kumar Chak-raborty, Assistant Director, Air Transport and Regulations, SM Lutful Kabir, Senior Aerodrome Officer, Air Transport and Regulations, CAAB and AR Faruky, Member Planning, Biman Bangladesh Airlines Limited.
Secretary, Ministry of Infor-mation and Communications, Royal Government of Bhutan was assisted in the talks by Wangdi Gyaltshen, Director, Department of Civil Aviation, Representing Drukair- Royal Bhutan Airlines, Tandin Jamso, Chief Executive Officer, Namgay Wangchuk, General Manager, Commer-cial and Domestic Air Service, Chewang Gyeltshen, Mana-ger, Corporate Planning, Chencho Dorji, Station Manager, Drukair and Karma S Tshosar, Deputy Chief of Mission, Royal Bhutanese Embassy Dhaka.
Air Vice Marshal Mahmud Hussain, Chairman, CAAB said, the MoU allows Fifth Freedom rights to Drukair, the national airline of Bhutan, to fly between Dhaka - Kolkata - Dhaka. Flights are expected to start from February 2013. Presently, Druk Air operates to Dhaka - Bangkok - Dhaka and also to Dhaka - Paro - Dhaka twice a week.
The CAAB Chairman said the agreement will further enhance the bilateral cooperation between the two brotherly countries. The MoU envisages consultations every year.
The agreement was signed in the larger interest of long-standing friendship between the two countries and cooperation among SAARC and COSCAP-SA member-states, he said. "Bhutan is a close friend of ours. As a friend of SAARC it is the duty of Bangladesh to help member state to assist their industry to grow for mutual benefit. There is no possibility of the newly-penned deal to affect the growth here," Air Vice Marshal Mahmud Hussain, said, adding, "our airlines also have the right to operate to other destinations via Paro."
As a fellow member of COSCAP-SA it is our duty to extend our hands of cooperation to encourage aviation industry growth in Bhutan. There is also market demand (for Dhaka-Kolkata seats) ? the demand is more from our side and the flights will be beneficial for the passengers who sometimes are unable to get seats. Asked about the utilisation of an airport in Bangladesh by Drukair to relocate their aircrafts during winter, he said, "Bhutan is expected to provide proposals in a concrete form next year (2013)."
Dasho Kinley Dorji, Secre-tary, Ministry of Information and Communications termed the signing of the MoU as a big step to bring the two countries still closer together.
"This will help bring the people of the two countries not only closer together but also increase business and trade relations between the two countries and boost tourist arrivals."
Inviting Bangladeshis to visit Bhutan in increasing numbers, he said, "Bhutan is less than an hour away by air."
"Bhutan had remained closed for many years. As we open up, aviation is one of the strategies (to open up)," Dasho Kinley Dorji said, adding "the steps initiated will increase cooperation and it will surely continue in the days ahead."
About the flights to Kolkata via Dhaka, he said, "We requested Dhaka few months ago and things happened quickly. We are happy."
Tandin Jamso, Chief Executive Officer, Drukair, "We are still a small airline. We don't fly very far. Our growth will come slowly."
"Besides Dhaka, we fly to Kathmandu, Kolkata, Singa-pore and Bangkok with a fleet of three Airbus A319s configured with 114 seats including Business Class and one 48 seat ATR42-500. Increasing number of Bangladeshi tourists is visiting Bhutan. So we suggested putting in more flights to Dhaka. The new flights will help better utilise our aircraft," he said.
Abu Hena M Mahmud, Managing Director, DNATA Ltd, GSA Drukair said, "The continuous efforts of Dnata, which has been the GSA of Drukair for over three years, have not only helped increase the number of tourists but also pursued for the Paro-Dhaka-Kolkata flights which has come to reality through the signing of the MoU."
Md. Atharul Islam, Adviser, DNATA Ltd and the former Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism, played an instrumental role here. Without his initiatives and sincere efforts Druk Air flights to and from Kolkata would not have been possible in such a short time."
When asked about the year-on-year increase in the number of passengers, he said, "It is increasing every month - by some 15 to 20 per cent. Foiaz Rahman, Assistant General Manager, DNATA Ltd and Mahfuza Hossain, Head of Marketing and Business Development, DNATA Ltd have been playing lead role in developing the Druk Air market and Bhutan tourism in Bangladesh."
"Besides regular flights, we are able to send additional chartered flights (with tourists) to Paro almost every month. We can proudly say Bhutan has now become one of the popular tourism destinations in Bangladesh," Abu Hena M Mahmud said thanking the CAAB Chairman for the cooperation.