Dhaka, 10 February 2022 (TDI): Regional office of International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in Bangkok Asia & Pacific Office (APAC) interviewed the Chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB), Air Vice Marshal M Mafidur Rahman.

The Civil Aviation Authority Bangladesh (CAAB) is the regulatory body responsible for all aviation-related activities in Bangladesh. It functions under the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism. Its headquarters is located in Kurmitola, Dhaka. CAAB controls nine airports, among which three are international and six airports are domestic.

ICAO APAC Office: Chairman CAPSCA - CAAB AVM Mafidur Rahman
ICAO APAC Office: Chairman CAPSCA – Civil Aviation Authority Bangladesh AVM Mafidur Rahman

Considering the contemporary impacts of COVID-19 on aviation and Human health safety, three questions were asked to Chairman CAAB successively:

The first question was comprised of three portions:
  • the biggest challenges to the international aviation industry in the next five years,
  • the prompt transition in the aviation industry and
  • the COVID–19’s impact on Bangladesh
Recession in the Aviation Industry

In reply to the first question, Chairman CAAB told that due to COVID–19, a major recession in the aviation industry has been observed for the last two years. Many airlines were compelled to cease their operations, many had to lay off their staff, and some went bankrupt.

Aviation manufacturing companies, leasing corporations, and airports are in the worst circumstances they have ever been in. Besides that civil aviation sector has faced several downturns during the last 20 years due to various global crises.

Further, he recalled the instances of SARS in 2002, the global economic crisis in 2008, and the avian flu in 2013 as an example that the aviation industry has never seen such destruction as in the present pandemic regime.

Procrastination in Health and Security Protocols Results

AVM Mafidur Rahman accentuated the point that if airport operators do not maintain the additional health and security protocols for their passengers and airport operation, aviation stakeholders would confront various ardent challenges as they conduct aviation operations in the coming years.

Scarcity of health and screening equipment, a dearth of airport personnel, incessant supply of personal protective equipment may be the issues for airport operators across the world. Therefore, airlines must acclimatize to fluctuating health requirements imposed by various states, as well as the services they give to their customers.

Nuance of Uncertainty

Additionally, he said that ‘the nuance of uncertainty’ would remain to persist in the event of scheduled flights because of the implementation of border closure and special health measures by different states of the world.

Aviation professional training and licensing would also remain another point of snit in the prospective years. In this regard, airmen must maintain their continuous training to fulfill regulatory requirements.

Nuisance in Aircraft Production and the Way Forward

He said that aircraft makers are facing a nuisance in the manufacturing of a new aircraft. Airlines are compelled to bear the expensive maintenance and operational costs with their current fleet. Many operators have already canceled production orders.

Operators may have to sustain their flight operation by refurbishing aircraft or with their existing fleet till innovative technologies are not incorporated in order to address the public health concerns and challenges. Passengers are well acclimated to the current scenario and the travel will soon gain momentum.

Initially, the unexpected scenario has affected air travel throughout the world. This has steadily improved as member countries began to implement creative ideas and follow up with new technological advancements.

The trend of e-commerce via Air Cargo

In the meantime, a prompt increase in e-commerce through air cargo has been seen by a majority of the states. Albeit, resuscitation of the present situation, and exclusively the passenger transportation, are required to be increased because air travel is the prompt mode of transportation which contributes significantly in global economies.

Increment in Airfares

Pandemic has affected the airfares in some states of the world. Some airlines have stopped their flight operations at some routes which has created extra pressure on other airlines, with less competition.

Narrative on Bangladesh

Mafidur Rehman told that Bangladesh has availed the opportunity to lead the (Collaborative Arrangement for the Prevention and Management of Public Health Events in Civil Aviation – Asia Pacific) CAPSCA–AP with the synchronous expansion of the aviation sector. Suitable preventive measures have been taken before and after the advent of the virus in the country.

Despite the fact that domestic and international scheduled passenger flights to and from Bangladesh were banned for a few weeks in 2020, the flights’ schedule has been restored by implementing strong airport preventative measures.

CAAB allowed the airlines to carry the cargo in the passenger cabins so that it could help for survival against the pandemic. In order to keep COVID infections under control, CAAB has adopted additional health requirements on flights, operators, and airports to restore people’s confidence in air travel.

He gave his estimation that domestic flights operation had resumed fully, while international flights had resumed by more than 60% in Bangladesh. A flow of a significant number of Bangladeshi passengers has been observed who traveled to the Middle East for new career opportunities. This influx aided the airlines in recapturing the passenger market.

Further, he told that CAAB could not permit airlines to fly at full frequencies and seat capacity since they were operating in pre-pandemic scenarios. The current government of Bangladesh has already taken a significant number of initiatives to accommodate the rapid rise of air transportation in which the up-gradation of airports and the construction of a new international terminal are included on a priority basis.

Chairman CAAB revealed that Bangladesh envisions the expansion of the airports with more space and advanced technologies to accommodate more planes and passengers in the coming years. In this regard, the best efforts are being made for safe and secure air transportation in Bangladesh.

Second Question

In the second question, being the current chairman of CAPSCA–AP, AVM Mafidur Rahman was asked to share his experiences & challenges regarding the implementation of the public health corridors – Safe Travel Lanes in the Asia Pacific during the pandemic regime.

In reply, he cited the Eleventh Meeting of the Collaborative Arrangement for the Prevention and Management of Public Health Events in Civil Aviation Asia Pacific as a good demonstration for aviation professionals as well as stakeholders to sustain the aviation public health challenges.

Discrimination in Health Protocols invoked the Chaoticism

This regional platform allowed them to share information and expertise in aviation public health management shortly before the pandemic affected the rest of the world. There is no doubt in the veracity that all states have already established health protocols as precautionary measures.

It was impervious for CAPSCA-AP to develop fully synchronized health protocols across the area. Despite having National Air Transport Facilitation Committees, some Member States still have integration issues with other national or governmental entities aboard.

Also, he told that during the pandemic, discrimination regarding different health protocols has been observed in the Asia Pacific i.e. some governments had attempted to entice airlines to maintain operations, while some had imposed the restrictions, Some states had closed their borders and some enacted severe penalties for any breach of imposed restrictions.

Resultantly, passengers got frustrated with these non-apposite changes and lost their interest in air traveling. However, passengers’ trust seems to be restored intermittently.

Technological Aid

Chairman CAPSCA–AP told that new technologies have helped in the reduction of the escalation of health concerns. Some devices have not been successful, and some have advantages but that have not been acknowledged by the WHO. Some revolutionary equipment, such as touchless sanitation and health screening, greatly aided the airport management system.

He emphasized that all states must comply with RT PCR testing, vaccination, and quarantine protocols while dealing with the pandemic. Moreover, he denoted that some states have developed safe corridors with the goal of launching commercial passenger flights on a limited scale, despite many borders being closed.

Commendable Role of ICAO

He appreciated the role of ICAO and told that throughout the pandemic, the ICAO Secretariat played an important role by issuing letters, on which CAPSCA collaborated with all of its stakeholders and partners to provide creative, sustainable, and timely solutions for Member States to address all types of aviation public health challenges.

It is clear that the primary goal of CAPSCA-AP is to develop a harmonized health protocol throughout the area. Aviation Public Health Corridors will continue to play an important role in the situation.

Third Question

3rd question has been asked in the context of the upcoming CAPSCA global symposium in March 2022. Said question was comprised of the three parts:

  • Priorities of CAPSCA,
  • CAPSCA balance between public health concerns and the development and progress of the aviation industry,
  • Futuristic strengthen the framework of the CAPSCA program against the possible same events.
Suggestions by AVM (Chairman CAPSCA–AP)

In the reply to the question, he suggested that CAPSCA should have its own mechanism for compliance and health protocol harmonization. This compliance and harmonization holistically cover the quarantine regulations, RT PCR testing, and vaccination requirements, among other things.

In accordance with the general standards of WHO, CAPSCA may dialogue with health and other administrative authorities, such as health departments, border control and etc.

All member states should be taken onboard to build resilience against similar crises in the future. CAPSCA should have to provide updated information, training, workshop, seminar, etc to all member states.

Lastly, he told that they are seeking a safe, secure, and long-term restart and recovery of the global aviation industry through a coordinated strategy in which cumulative action by aviation leaders is required with new ideas for the restoration of smooth air transport operations.