Do pilots need passport and visas?

Chowdhury Akbor Hossain
Published : 07:30, Jun 08, 2019 | Updated : 13:15, Jun 10, 2019

Photo/Sazzad Hossain ChowdhuryThe issue of whether pilots need passports and visas to travel while on duty came to lights when a Bangladesh Biman pilot went to Qatar to fly the prime minister back home without a passport.
Although airlines authorities and the pilot himself denied the news of him being arrested at Doha and maintained that he forgot the passport, the question remains. Do the pilots and the cabin crews need passports and visas?
Passports and visas are indispensible when it comes to international travel. There are countries that provide on arrival visas but even then the passengers have to provide the passports.
The same rule applies for diplomats who often get visa waivers but in that case they have to provide the passport at immigration.
According to the pilots of several commercial airlines, the cabin crews, pilots and even the engineer on board don’t need visas but they must have their passports on them.
“The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and International Air Transport Association (IATA) has some fixed guidelines for pilots,” said US Bangla Airlines Pilot Zakaria.
He added that the airlines issued a General Declaration (GD) in the cabin crew and pilots’ names meaning that the airlines takes responsibility for them.
“Hence the General Declaration contains details of how many cabin crews and pilots are travelling, their birth date, passport number, flight number, destination and other important information,” he said.
Zakaria said that there are exceptions where they need visas but its issued to them separately.
“For example the pilots need visas to enter China. In that case they are issued one-year visas.”
Bangladesh Pilots Association (BAPA) President Mahbubur Rahman told Bangla Tribune that the pilots and cabin crews mostly don’t need to enter a country when they fly passengers to a destination.
“But if they do want to enter, they have to present the General Declaration copy and the passport at that country’s immigration. They are allowed to enter after the immigration scrutinises the documents,” he said.
File Photo/Murad HasanAccording to Captain Zakaria, the crew and pilots most definitely have to submit the aforementioned documents but how long they are allowed to stay varies from country to country.
“Some countries allow three, some seven and some even allow 21 days-stay,” he said.
Responding to queries about whether there are scopes for extra stay, Mahbubur Rahman said, “Usually no one stays after the allocated time.”
He added that exceptions are made in case someone falls ill but in that case necessary documents must be presented.
Accordoing to Rahman, the passport is indispensible because it bears the identity of the holder and proves that the information on the GD is true.
Meanwhile, Captain Zakaria emphasized on the importance of carrying passports during domestic flights as well.
“There are times we have to land at Kolkata due to bad weather during a Dhaka-Chittagong flight. In that case passports are important to avoid legal hassles.”
He added that if by chance a pilot tries to enter a country without a passport they are fined which depends on the country.