Dhaka: Pilots of Biman Bangladesh Airlines have returned to work, calling off their strike that had forced the company to scrap all flight schedules of the national carrier.

"We have resumed the scheduled flights after the pilots called off their strike last night," a Biman spokesman told Gulf News.

Bangladesh Airlines Pilot Association (Bapa) spokesman Captain Shah Alam last night told reporters all pilots had gone back to work at the request of  Prime Minister Shaikh Hasina.

Sources in the Prime minister’s office said Shaikh Hasina was expected to meet with the pilots later today at her Gono Bhaban residence, but was unable to due to an "important  engagement" the prime minister had to attend.

But Shaikh Hasina conveyed to them through a representative that they had her assurance their demands would be considered seriously, the pilots' spokesman said.

The prime minister’s assistant private secretary Saifuzzaman Shekhor told the pilots that the prime minister would look into their demands but they would need to call off their strike first without any condition.

The association went on a total strike for an indefinite period on Thursday  morning a day after the authorities had suspended five of its pilots including the Bapa president for protesting against a decision to raise the retirement age for pilots from 57 years to 62 years, leaving them conditionally out of insurance and rehabilitation benefits during the period.

The national flag carrier was forced to cancel its flights in domestic and  international routes on Friday and Saturday as its operations virtually  collapsed after the pilots vowed to continue their strike.

"The airline has canceled all its flights on domestic and international  routes other than Haj operation for today and tomorrow . . . because of the  unprecedented situation," Biman spokesman Khan Musharraf Hussain told reporters.

The Biman authorities earlier issued an ultimatum ordering striking pilots to go back to work within 48 hours or face "severe actions". The deadline was to expire Saturday.

The pilots have taken the airline to court over the cut in benefits. A hearing is pending.

In protest, the pilots stopped flying additional hours over and above the hours in their contracts between the pilots' association and the national flag carrier. The airline had required the pilots to work extra hours as it had 117 pilots, compared to the required number of 166.

Biman had earlier tried to operate its flights by reassigning employees with flying experience to work as pilots, and by hiring seven pilots on contract who were not members of the pilots' association.