Aviation: A private Bangladeshi airline, US-Bangla Airlines has proposed to operate between Paro and Dhaka.

US-Bangla Airlines is a subsidiary of US-Bangla Group, a business conglomerate in Bangladesh. The airline operates a fleet of 3 DASH 8-Q400, which are 76-seater twin turbo-propellor aircraft.

Information and communications secretary, Dasho Kinley Dorji said that the ministry had received the proposal. However, he added that the airline has been asked to route it through the foreign affairs ministry.

Dasho Kinley Dorji said that as an Air Services Agreement has been signed with Bangladesh, which allows a Bhutanese airline to fly to Bangladesh, any designated Bangladeshi airline has the right to fly to Bhutan. Air Service Agreements are based on a reciprocal basis.

However, Dasho Kinley Dorji said that while in principle the airline can be allowed to operate to Bhutan, in terms of practicality, the airline would have to study that aspect itself.

The secretary pointed out that the airline will have to gauge the viability of operating to a small market.

Currently, only the national airline, Drukair operates to Dhaka thrice a week.

The airline carried 9,481 passengers on this sector in 2014, according to the annual infocomm and transport statistical bulletin 2015.

Drukair also flew a total of 3,404 passengers between Dhaka and Bangkok in 2014. However, this route was discontinued following low traffic and because Drukair wanted to restart its Paro-Kolkata-Bangkok route.

Drukair commercial general manager, Ugyen Tashi, said that the fact that Drukair operates its smaller ATR aircraft between Paro and Dhaka, and only thrice a week indicates that the market is not big enough for one more airline.

Tashi Air considered operating the Paro-Dhaka-Singapore route but this is now unlikely as it plans to fly to Singapore via Myanmar.

Dasho Kinley Dorji also said that US-Bangla Airlines will also have to consider that Paro international airport is being expanded and that construction activities will be taking place.

While the apron has recently been expanded, a cargo terminal building and a taxi way that will run parallel to the runway are being planned for the next fiscal year.

The secretary said that further details on the airline’s proposal, such as flight frequency and air fares, was not available. He added that a team from the Bangladeshi airline will be coming to Bhutan to discuss the proposal.

The last foreign airline to operate to Bhutan was Nepali private airline Buddha Air in 2010. It was the first foreign airline to operate to Bhutan. However, it pulled out of the Bhutanese market seven months after beginning operations as a result of heavy losses.

Gyalsten K Dorji