The Bangladeshi Government has agreed to open up the international market to limited competition from private carriers, after years of lobbying efforts.

The move, which comes nearly a decade after the government liberalised the domestic market and allowed private carriers to compete with state-owned Biman Bangladesh Airlines, covers the opening of secondary Chittagong airport to international services anywhere except the Middle East. It also allows private carriers to operate from the capital Dhaka to Paro in Bhutan, as well as from Dhaka to Chennai, Gouhati and Shillong in India.

The Indian destination rights are largely symbolic, however, as they are not designated points from Dhaka in the existing bilateral air accord, which was signed in 1978.

Bangladesh's only private carrier, GMG Airlines, says it aims to launch services to Paro by the end of the year. The carrier, which has become Biman's main competitor since it started up in 1998, is also continuing to lobby for additional rights from the capital as well as the right to operate from Chittagong to the Middle East.

Managing director Shahab Sattar said that the airline has already begun assessing the Airbus A320 and Boeing737-700/800 for anticipated services to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. "We are fighting for the Middle East from Chittagong," he says, adding that it is hoped that services can start within 6-12 months.

Source: Airline Business