Flights from Bangladesh are finally running busy, and which means that most of travel to the UAE from the Subcontinent is inching closer to pre-COVID-19 times. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: Bookings on flights from Bangladesh bound for the UAE are shooting up almost overnight afer the Bangladesh Government’s decision to cover the cost of Rapid PCR tests. Until that decision, travel between the two countries had been suffering due to a lack of testing facilities at Bangladesh’s airports.

Bangladesh government has agreed to bear the cost of rapid Covid-19 PCR tests at Dhaka airport for UAE-bound workers. “Expatriate workers are remittance fighters of our country - their contribution to the country's economy is undeniable,” Imran Ahmed, Bangladesh’s Minister of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment, was quoted as saying by local media.

“The government is working to ensure their welfare - as part of this, the ministry will pay 1,600 takas for the COVID-19 test at the airport for workers going to the UAE.”

Fares ride higher

Flights from Dhaka to Dubai can cost as much as Dh3,500 right now amid tight capacity. Air Arabia Abu Dhabi and Etihad are operating flights from Dhaka and fares are in the range of Dh2,000 to Dh4,000. There are no direct flights to UAE from Chittagong – Bangladesh’s second-largest airport.

Flights from Dubai back to Dhaka are not cheap either, with fares between Dh2,000 to Dh3,500.

“Fares are expensive, but it’s the availability of seats which is more of a concern than pricing,” said a spokesperson for Al Badie Travel Agency. “Visit visa has still not been activated and may take another week or so.”

Flight suspension

UAE suspended flights from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan in April amid a spike in COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant. When India and Pakistan received the UAE’s government’s green light last month, several airports in those countries could not meet the requirement of a Rapid PCR test six hours prior to departure. This led to last-minute flights cancellations.

Regular flights from India and Pakistan have now resumed and Bangladesh could soon join that list. “Bangladesh has sorted out the issue of rapid PCR testing facilities – that should not be a worry anymore,” said a travel agent. Before, “they didn’t have the RT PCR equipment and support.”

Expo chances

Once UAE starts issuing visit visas, tourists from Bangladesh can look forward to visiting their country’s pavilion at Dubai Expo 2020.

The Bangladesh Pavilion, located at the sustainability district, showcases the cultural history and socio-economic development. “Through digital and physical exhibits, see how Bangladesh has transformed from an agrarian economy to a strong export-led country with many investment opportunities,” says the Expo 2020 website.