Air communications between Bangladesh and India will resume from October 28 after being suspended for more than seven months due to Covid-19.
The decision was made at an inter-ministerial meeting at the civil aviation and tourism ministry yesterday.
The resumption of air communications will bring relief to many Bangladeshis who are waiting to travel to the neighbouring country for treatment.
Speaking to The Daily Star, Senior Secretary Md Mohibul Haque of the civil aviation and tourism ministry said three Bangladeshi carriers -- Biman Bangladeshi Airlines, US-Bangla Airlines and Novo Air -- would initially operate 28 flights a week while five Indian airlines -- Air India, IndiGo, SpiceJet, Vistara and GoAir -- would operate 28 flights a week between the two countries.
Of the three Bangladeshi carriers, Biman is scheduled to operate flights on Dhaka-Delhi and Dhaka-Kolkata routes, US-Bangla Airlines on Dhaka-Chennai and Novo Air on Dhaka-Kolkata route, sources at Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) said.
The five Indian airlines are expected to operate flights on Dhaka-Delhi, Dhaka-Kolkata, Dhaka-Chennai, and Dhaka-Mumbai routes, the sources added.
Speaking to this correspondent, CAAB Chairman Air Vice Marshal M Mafidur Rahman said around 5,000 passengers from both the countries would be able to fly each week.
Sources at CAAB and Association of Travel Agents of Bangladesh said around 20 lakh Bangladeshis visit India every year by air and many of them go there for treatment.
On August 27, the immediate past Indian high commissioner to Bangladesh Riva Ganguly Das had proposed resuming air travels which remain suspended since March 15 due to Covid-19 pandemic.
During a meeting with State Minister for Civil Aviation Mahbub Ali at the secretariat, she had invited Bangladesh to join Indian air bubble -- an exclusive arrangement between neighbouring countries to reestablish air connectivity and allow people to travel freely within the zone.
Senior Secretary Mohibul, who chaired the meeting yesterday, said air communications between the two countries would be operated under the "air bubble" arrangement.
He said under the arrangement, India would allow more than one attendants with each patient from Bangladesh to visit the country.
Earlier, India had said it would allow only one attendant.
CAAB Chairman Mafidur said passengers from Bangladesh and India would be able to fly only between the two countries under the arrangement. They won't be able to fly to a third country.
Mohibul said India has also agreed to complete visa processing of Bangladeshi passengers within seven working days.
Under the air bubble arrangement, passengers from both the countries will have to undergo Covid-19 testing before flying.
The Indian High Commission in Dhaka on October 9 announced resumption of online visa services for Bangladeshi citizens.
For now, visas will be issued under nine categories. These include medical, business, employment, journalist, diplomatic, official, UN official and UN diplomatic.
India stopped entry of all foreigners by halting visa approvals since March 12 following the spread of novel coronavirus.
Indian High Commissioner to Dhaka Vikram Doraiswami on Monday said it would take more time to issue Indian tourist and student visas due to the pandemic.
"We have already resumed visa processes. We encourage our Bangladeshi partners to resume their applications. Almost all visa categories are covered... I am pressing very hard to reopen all visa services," he said.