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Biman aims to lift its market share

National flag carrier also plans to expand fleet

January 14, 2018 00:00:00

Kamrun Nahar

State-run carrier Biman has taken initiatives including purchase of new aircraft and change in networking approach to raise its market share to 30 per cent from the present 20 per cent by 2027, a Biman official has said.

Besides, the national flag carrier has planned to purchase five more new aircraft over the next nine years as part of its 10-year fleet expansion plan, which awaits approval from the fleet committee.

"Two Dreamliner aircraft will be added to our fleet in August and November this year. Two more Dreamliners will come in 2019," spokesperson of Biman Bangladesh Airlines Shakil Meraj told the FE recently.

These four aircraft will come under a package deal signed with US aviation behemoth Boeing in 2008, he said. Biman purchased 10 planes from Boeing under the package at a cost of US$ 2.1 billion or Tk 200 billion. It has already received six aircraft -- four Boeing 777-300 ER and two new-generation 737-800s and paid Tk 50 billion in installment, Mr Shakil added.

Biman carried 2.35 million passengers last year, up from 2.31 million in 2016. The country's aviation market grows at 7.1 per cent annually. The number of Biman passengers has increased by 0.8 million in the past three years.

The national flag carrier will bring two Boeing 777-300s under the short-term wet lease from Fly Global of Malaysia in February this year in which it will get aircraft along with crew. Another four short range 74-seat D-8 aircraft will be brought under wet lease for three years by 2018 to use them for domestic and regional connectivity.

Request for Proposal (RFP) was published after which the Biman authority found two companies responsive. An agreement will be signed after finalising successful bidder by the technical evaluation committee.

Biman will purchase three D-8 aircraft from Canadian aircraft maker Bombardier by 2018. A letter of intent (LOI) has already been signed and approved by the subcommittee of the cabinet committee on government purchase.

Another four 300-seater aircraft will be brought in July this year under wet lease to support Hajj flight operations for three months. RFP has already been published in newspapers. The government has set a target to send 127,000 pilgrims this year, which may be increased up to 140,000.

A high-powered seven-member government delegation went to Saudi Arabia to sign an agreement with Riyadh on January 12. Biman will carry about 65,000-70,000 pilgrims for which it needs to ramp up its capacity. The additional aircraft will help Biman operate Hajj flights smoothly as well as prevent from cutting regular flights during Hajj flight operations.

Mr Shakil said the number of routes would also increase along with a rise in the number of aircraft.

Biman will start flight operation in Guangzhou, Colombo and Male from 2018. Besides, flights will be operated in long distance destinations like Sydney, Toronto and Tokyo with Dreamliners, he added.

Biman will also change the point-to-point approach and adopt hub and spook approach in increasing its networking. Dhaka will be the hub from where transit passengers can catch the connecting flights of other destinations, which will increase the number of passengers and cabin factor. Additional aircraft will help in carrying transit passengers.

Regarding improvement of services, Mr Shakil said that there are two things in service-on-time departure and in-flight service.

Last year Biman had 70 per cent on-time departure, which has been targeted increasing to 80-85 per cent, he added. There is no standby aircraft right now. New aircraft will help improve on-flight departure, Mr Shakil said.

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