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Biman Bangladesh Airlines fleet renewal programme

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Bangladesh Biman plans to treble fleet by 2030
Muktadir Rashid | Updated at 05:39pm on February 09, 2020

Biman Bangladesh Airlines managing director Md Mokabbir Hossain makes a point during an interview with New Age in Dhaka recently. — New Age photo

National flag carrier Biman Bangladesh Airlines Limited has planned to increase its fleet size up to 50 aircraft from the existing 18 by 2030.

Biman hinted that alongside the Boeing Company other aircraft manufacturers would also be considered during the next procurement.

Biman managing director and chief executive officer Md Mokabbir Hossain in an interview with New Age recently said that they would also increase the numbers of both domestic and international routes.

The new aircraft would be used to establish connections to new destinations from Japan to North America and increase the flight frequencies to Middle Eastern and Chinese destinations in the near future.

Among Biman’s current 18 aircraft, the manufacturer of all but two aircraft was Boeing while the rest two have been made by Canada’s Bombardier Inc.

‘As our lease for the two [Boeing] 373 will end soon, we need two more similar airliners to carry the same passengers,’ said the CEO, adding that they would likely to consider other manufacturers while procuring new airliners.

Six planes of the country’s fleet were obtained on lease and once the three Dash 8 Q400 aircraft bought from Bombardier reach Dhaka by May-June this year they would replace the two Dash 8 aircraft currently in use on lease.

The Biman CEO said that after the arrival of those Dashes they would focus on more frequent flights on seven domestic routes, using those on the regional routes.

The CEO, however, said that they were currently working to bring transparency in the operational capacities and managing the carrier’s existing manpower, including maintaining on-time flight performance and improving the on-broad services.

Biman, he added, has improved its check-in system, which would close all checks-in in 30 minutes before the domestic flights and in one hour before the international flights.

‘We have shortage of operational manpower and we are making recruitments to this end,’ said Mokabbir, who is also on Biman’s board of directors, expressing sharp resentment on past recruitments that were not always based on the needs.

Biman is planning to develop its engineering service for the line services for their foreign carriers using the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka to ‘commercialise’ their services and make them profitable.

Mokabbir said that the Biman engineers were used to Boeing planes but they wanted to prepare engineering manpower for airliners from other manufacturers, too.

Biman has a plan to operate freighter services as per market assessment amid a huge demand from the domestic traders, the CEO said, adding that in that case the freighters would connect South East Asia to the Middle East or beyond using Dhaka as base. 

Immediately after the country’s liberation on December 16, 1971, Biman Bangladesh Airlines started its journey as the national flag carrier on January 4, 1972 with a DC-3 aircraft.

After procuring two F-27s, Biman finally took off on March 7, 1972, with domestic flights to Chittagong and Sylhet from its base in Dhaka.

Currently Biman is operating flights to and from seven domestic and 17 international destinations.

On January 5 last, Biman launched its direct flight between Dhaka and Manchester, the major city of northwest England, and brand-new Boeing Dreamliner 787-9 airliners were being used to operate flights on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday on the route.

Around 90,000 Bangladeshis live in Manchester but Biman suspended flights on the Dhaka–Manchester route due to shortage of aircraft in 2012.

‘We want to connect Dhaka to Toronto via Manchester as we find the route financially viable for us…now we are looking for permission for three flights a week on the Dhaka–Manchester–Toronto route’.

And, he said, they were also approaching the US Federal Aviation Authorities for Dhaka–Manchester–New York route and the authorities would be inspecting the Dhaka airport shortly in this regard.

The loss-making Dhaka–New York flights of Biman have remained suspended since July 2006.

‘If we operate three flights a week, the route can be viable,’ said Mokabbir.

He, however, was unwilling to say whether the recently resumed Dhaka–Manchester route became viable.

The Biman MD said that they were now focusing on markets and exploring destinations which should be financially viable for the airline.

‘We are now prioritising our Dhaka–Tokyo flight,’ he added.

Bangladesh in January revised its air service agreement with Japan increasing the weekly flight frequency from two to seven and dropping the third-country restriction on the Dhaka–Tokyo route.

In the past, Thailand was the mandatory stopover for the Bangladeshi flights to Tokyo but now the flights can have the stopover in any country as Bangladesh needs.

Mokabbir said that after the air service deal was revised Biman was planning to operate three flights a week on the Dhaka–Tokyo route in the near future.

‘We will operate two flights via Thailand and will also fly directly to Japan,’ said the Biman boss.

Biman suspended its service on the Dhaka–Tokyo route in 2006, finding it not commercially viable.

Now given the enhanced business ties and higher tourist movement between the two countries, the airline decided to resume its flights on the route, the official added.

He said that they would be increasing the number of flights to Riyadh, Dammam and Dubai, among other ME destinations, with their youngest airliners with their average age of 3.5 years.

The national flag carrier CEO said that they rescheduled the Dhaka–Delhi flights and were getting a huge response on the route while planning to expand its wings to Chennai in the near future.  

Mokabbir said that they were planning to operate flights on the Dhaka-Guangzhou route and the Chinese inspection authorities would be inspecting the Biman office in Guangzhou on February 12.

He also said that the long-haul aircraft would be used on long routes, like Sylhet–London direct flights.

The modernisation of the Sylhet International Airport is under way, including installation of security features.

‘I hope that if the inspection is done by March, this direct flight can be operated from May this year,’ he further said. 

When the new aircraft would be available and domestic flights would be enough to operate, he said, Biman might operate cross-city services like Sylhet–Cox’s Bazar and Jashore–Cox’s Bazar flights in future as now any flyer must use the Dhaka or the Chattogram airport.

Mokabbir, a serving bureaucrat, who was given the charge of the loss-making national airline in September 2019 to make it viable and functional, also said that the current management wanted to bring transparency in its operations with developing a ‘system’ so that it would run ‘systematically’ whoever assumed the leadership.

For the sake of transparency, he said, they have taken a number of initiatives, including ticketing through mobile-based applications at a cheaper rate than that of the base fares while making tickets available at more places in the capital.

‘We will shortly open a sales centre at Dhanmondi on the land we have recently recovered. Another sales centre will be opened at the Balaka Bhaban now under renovation,’ said the CEO.

The Biman CEO mentioned that after he took over, he tried to maintain the baggage delivery on time for all international and domestic passengers but sometimes they were facing problems when ‹notam› occurred.

Notam is a notice filed with an aviation authority to alert aircraft pilots against potential hazards along a flight route or at a location that could affect the safety of the flight due to special flight movement.

He said that he was trying to visit passenger management in person or in disguise so that the services could be ensured for all.

Mokabbir said they stopped the ticketing up-gradation system so that Biman could earn more revenue from the passengers opting for more luxury.

The Biman top manager said that they introduced an additional 10 per cent food for the passengers travelling from Middle Eastern countries considering their travel distances and sufferings before reaching their destinations.


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32 minutes ago, Zoro96 said:

Thank you for the info. So I take it that Biman still has no plans to resume NY or London routes?

Dhaka-London route was always operational and currently London-Sylhet route is also active. For NY, airport security system needs FAA Cat-1 certificate which is not there still now.

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9 minutes ago, Dark Carnage said:

Dhaka-London route was always operational and currently London-Sylhet route is also active. For NY, airport security system needs FAA Cat-1 certificate which is not there still now.

I was confused about the Sylhet-London route. Thanks for clarifying that for me.

As for the NY route, do you happen to know if the certification process is underway, and if not, when Biman might start that?

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1 hour ago, Zoro96 said:

Thank you for the info. So I take it that Biman still has no plans to resume NY or London routes?


20 minutes ago, Zoro96 said:

I was confused about the Sylhet-London route. Thanks for clarifying that for me.

As for the NY route, do you happen to know if the certification process is underway, and if not, when Biman might start that?


17 minutes ago, Dark Carnage said:

Biman has nothing to do with it. It is the job of CAA and they are trying for last two/three years.

There is no hope unless and until Terminal 1 and 2 of HSIA are completely revamped for upgrade to Cat-1.

The entire baggage-handling and scanning processes need to be re-designed.

They have already brought in body scanners but are yet to operate them.


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Biman makes Tk 423 cr profit this year: Mahbub tells in JS

State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism Mahbub Ali today said the Biman Bangladesh Airlines has made a profit of Taka 423 crore in six months in the current fiscal year.

“Biman has made a profit of Taka 423 crore in the last six months from July to December 2019,” he said while responding to a starred question made by treasury bench lawmaker Abul Kalam Azad of Jamalpur-1 in the House here.

In 2018-2019, the national flag carrier earned a net profit of Taka 217.80 crore, said the state minister, adding that the total earning during this period was Taka 5,795 crore and the expenditure was Taka 5,777.10 crore.

Regarding the corruption, he said the administration of Biman Bangladesh Airlines has already been reshuffled, keeping a target to curb corruption and expenditure of the national airlines. So, the corruption of Biman has been reduced drastically, he added.

At present, Mahbub Ali said the ticket selling and seat booking of the national airlines has already been opened for the public with the launching of a mobile app named ‘Biman Airlines’.

Bangladesh Biman is now operating 18 aircrafts to 17 international destinations in 12 countries and 7 stations under the domestic route.

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Local airlines lose flyers due to coronavirus

This fall in passenger growth comes at the busiest period of the year, when air travel for both business and tourism is usually high

The plan for Bangladeshi airlines to expand to international routes with new aircraft has hit a brick wall due to the coronavirus outbreak, which has slashed outbound passenger growth by 40 percent in recent weeks.

Even worse, this sharp fall in passenger growth comes at the busiest period of the year when air travel for both business and tourism is usually high. 

Cargo imports also fell by more than 60 percent as raw material import remain suspended in China – one of the largest business hubs for Bangladesh – according to airlines industry insiders. 

Since airfreight demand has been weakening worldwide, the outbreak of coronavirus will further add woes if the crisis prolongs, industry insiders feared. 

Asia-Pacific carriers posted a 3.5 percent decrease in demand for airfreight last year compared to a 2.8 percent increase in 2018, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Biman Bangladesh Airlines has already begun to feel the pinch of a global slowdown as the fall in export-import growth has hit its cargo business, with revenue from goods transportation falling by 32 percent in the first four months of the current fiscal year.

"The national carrier will have to bear more costs at the end of this year if the impact of coronavirus prolongs," said Md Mokabbir Hossain, managing director Biman Bangladesh Airlines.

Biman was planning to open new routes to Guangzhou by March but the process was delayed due to the outbreak, he added. 

Mokabbir said the Biman office in Guangzhou is ready but the inspection scheduled by the Chinese authority on February 12 was suspended. 

"Moreover, outbound passengers to Singapore, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur have dropped by more than 40 percent as tourists are avoiding travel over health concerns," he further said. 

However, Biman did not take any decision to cut flights as inbound flights are still full, he added. 

The coronavirus outbreak has also forced airlines operating in Bangladesh to backtrack from their flight expansion plans centering on the construction of the third terminal of the Dhaka airport.

For instance, US-Bangla Airlines – the only local airline company operating flights to China – moved to cut flight frequency to Guangzhou from five to only three-four per week.

"US-Bangla decided to reduce flights in China as number of both inbound and outbound passengers declined substantially, causing losses," said US-Bangla CEO Sikder Mezbahuddin Ahmed.

Passenger growth also fell by 20 percent in other tourist destinations such as Bangkok and Bali.

"Vietnam is emerging as a tourist destination and business activities as well in recent times, but passenger travel in this route has also declined since it goes via Bangkok," he added. 

Mezbahuddin said that although the country's airline operators were doing well amid fast growth of the aviation industry, the sudden break brought by coronavirus will hurt the industry, which will eventually negatively impact the overall economy. 

Singapore Airlines, which grew at over 10 percent last year in the Bangladeshi market despite a global slowdown, also cut its flights in China. 

"We have flights in around 26 destinations in China and some flights were suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak," said Rifat Kader, head of Sales and Marketing of Singapore Airlines.

However, there has not been much impact in other routes yet, he added. 

Regent Airways, which operates flights in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, also experienced a 15 percent fall in outbound passenger growth in the last one week.

"Passengers are cancelling their ticket bookings due to safety concerns," said Hanif Zakaria, chief commercial officer of Regent.

Though, outbound passenger growth has dropped, number of inbound passengers remains high as people consider Bangladesh safer since no cases of coronavirus have been reported yet, he added.

"Currently, we have three weekly flights in these international routes and we may cut flights if the crisis prolongs," he said.

The crisis hit the aviation industry at a time when international air passenger traffic has been slowing down in the global market. 

In 2019, international passenger traffic in the global market climbed 4.1 percent compared to a 7.1 percent growth in 2018, according to IATA. 

However, Bangladesh's fast growing economy, international business connections and tourism sector spared the local aviation industry from the global slowdown.

The IATA forecasts the air transport in Bangladesh to annually grow at 8.4 percent until 2038 if the current trend continues. In 2018, air passenger flow in the country was 7.2 million, which will increase to 19.3 million by 2038.

Expecting future growth, airlines in the country are expanding their fleets.

For instance, Biman's fleet has increased manifold over the years, and with 16 aircraft – 10 of which are its own and the rest are on lease – its current fleet size is the largest in its history. 

Two more 787-9 aircraft will be added to Biman's fleet this month, and another two Dash-8 will arrive by June next year, raising the total fleet size to 20.

Other local private airlines are also expanding their fleets by adding new aircraft.

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Biman Bangladesh looks to add freighters

737s could be the entry point to freighters for Biman Bangladesh Airlines. (Photo: Boeing)

Biman Bangladesh Airlines has plans to add freighters to its fleet to satisfy “huge demand” from local traders, Md Mokabbir Hossain, the carrier’s managing director and CEO, told Dhaka-based outlet New Age.

Biman’s long-term strategy sees the airline growing its fleet to a total of fifty aircraft by 2030. The carrier currently only has a fleet of eighteen passenger aircraft, including ten widebodies in the form of four 777-300ERs, four 787-8s and two 787-9s.

No additional details were given by Biman, except that the freighter aircraft would be used to connect Southeast Asia with the Middle East and beyond, via Dhaka (DAC).

Narrowbody conversions could be the carrier’s entry point to freighters. In particular, Biman has two 737-800s (28648 and 28653) leased from GECAS that are approximately nineteen years old. According to Mokabbir Hossain, the leases for those two aircraft are expiring “soon.” Given the suitability of these 737-800s as conversion candidates, GECAS could convert them into freighter configuration and lease them back to Biman. Of course, Biman could also opt for less expensive 737 Classic conversions.

Bangladesh is already home to one freighter operator; Sky Capital Cargo, which has one 737-200F (24197) and two Fokker 50s, flies a number of domestic routes and has plans to expand to Kunming (KMG) and Guangzhou (CAN), according to its website

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  • 2 weeks later...

Instead of simply buying more aircraft or developing new routes on their own Biman can join partnership programs such as the Star Alliance. The alliance will offer more routes and generate extra revenue for Biman. Biman's arrival times and its aircraft fleet are some of the best in the world.

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