State-owned Biman Bangladesh Airlines has earned around Tk 1 billion as profit only from the Hajj flights this season.
Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Muhammad Faruk Khan disclosed the information on Saturday at a press conference at the Biman headquarters at the capital's Kurmitola earlier in the day.
He said the airliner has earned a total revenue of around Tk 6.5 billion, of which nearly Tk 5.5 billion has already been spent leaving a profit at nearly Tk 1 billion.
The state-owned airliner saw such a big earning for the first time this year since it started Hajj flights in 1973.
The Minister, however, said the details of the profit would be made known later.
This year Biman had used its own two Boeing-777s, two DC-10s and rented a Boeing-747 for the Hajj flights.
Faruk Khan said, "The profit came as two Boeing-777s were used to transport passengers. Even though the rented Boeing-747 did not face any loss but the DC-10s did so.."
He also praised the national flag-carrier for its Hajj flight service. "Transporting Hajj pilgrims is a very tough job. The success came as Biman took a long-term plan this year giving the Hajj flights top-priority."
According to the Civil Aviation Ministry, this year a total of 110,552 pilgrims went to Saudi Arabia for Hajj and only Biman transported 54,179 of them. The two other airlines, Saudia, Saudi Arabian Airlines, and private airlines National Air Services (NAS) also transported 42,206 pilgrims and 14,167 pilgrims, respectively
Until now, a total of 105,131 pilgrims have returned to the country after performing Hajj while 173 people died during the ritual in Saudi Arabia.
Biman's last Hajj flight is supposed to return with the rest of the pilgrims on Dec 12..
Minister defends Biman
Meanwhile, Minister Muhammad Faruk Khan on Saturday defended the state-owned airliner saying Biman would not see any profit without new planes.
When asked about the loss incurred by the national flag carrier this year, he said Biman would face loss in future if new planes were not provided.
"Eight of the 10 planes it has right now are at least 20-30 years old. Old planes cannot bring profit."
"On the other hand, the fuel prices in the international market have increased by nearly 65 per cent. Fuel and maintenance cost of the old aircrafts are too high," he added.
But the Minister ducked a question over the investigation report on a rented carrier plane which left before its deal ended.
A Boeing-747, which can carry 500 passengers and was hired from a Portuguese charter company Air Atlanta, had left for Portugal from Muscat airport in Oman on Sept 12 leaving 225 passengers there, before the time agreed between Biman and the company expired.
The incident had badly affected Biman's regular flight schedule that month landing a large number of passengers travelling to different countries in chaos.
An investigation committee, led by Civil Aviation Secretary Khurshid Alam Chowdhury, was formed to look into the matter. It was supposed to submit its findings within 30 workdays.
When his attention was drawn into the issue, Faruk Khan on Saturday only said, "Measures will be taken based on the findings of the probe report."