Resumption of direct flight to Manchester by Biman Bangladesh Airlines -- initially with three weekly flights -- will be difficult to be viable considering the challenges posed by the international competitors.
Experts suggested that Biman should have at least four flights a week to make the route commercially feasible. The major competitors of Biman in this route are-Emirates via Dubai, Qatar Airways via Doha and Turkish Airlines via Istanbul.
Experts said, in that respect, Biman has the maximum advantage in attracting passengers as it will operate direct flights.
Biman, however, does not have the capacity and dynamism to run the airline profitably, they added.
They expressed concern at the same time considering the past business record of Biman in Manchester and London operation.
They cited the example of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed who has been trying to sell out the Malaysian Airlines to various global companies.
Bangladesh Monitor Editor and aviation expert Kazi Wahidul Alam told the FE that resumption of flight to Manchester is obviously a viable route as there has been a long standing demand. But it would be difficult to make the operation viable if the frequency is not adequate. Biman must operate at least four flights a week to Manchester, he added.
Besides, Biman needs huge promotion and activities to gain confidence of the passengers. Also there should be proper in-flight entertainment and ensure on-time departure along with new generation aircraft.
Biman plans to operate its Dhaka-Manchester flight with Boeing 787 with a seating capacity of 271 passengers from January 04 next year (2020).
Aviation expert Imran Asif said that Biman should have a good business plan before the opening of the Manchester route. The competition will be very hard for Biman as various giant international carriers operate in that route. Majority of the Bangladeshi passengers prefer those foreign airlines paying high price despite transit route just because of the image and service of Biman, he added.
"If Biman has its own study, it is good. But the viewpoint of the airliner and a manufacturer like Boeing will be different as the manufacturer will say anything to sell their aircraft," he said.
On the other hand, Biman authorities expressed optimism that resumption of direct flight operation to Manchester after starting commercial operation in 1994 would be viable this time.
Recently appointed Biman Managing Director Mokabbir Hossain told the FE that Manchester route would be re-launched with weekly three flights with Boeing 787 Dreamliner. It is definitely going to be viable as studies show, he mentioned.
"We have our own study, and studies of some other companies including the Boeing," he also said.
"We have already started selling tickets for Manchester route," said Mr Mokabbir.
Regarding failure to increase flight frequency to London, he said that they would increase flights in peak season when more expatriates travel to Bangladesh from London. Now it is off peak season, he added.
Some 419 people can travel by Biman's Boeing 777 flight running currently between Dhaka and London.
Regarding the service quality and on-time departure problem, Mr Mokabbir said recently there has been no such incident of delay because of the negligence of the Biman employees except for weather and technical problem.
"We have instructed the airport to close the international counter one hour before the departure. We have come out of the VIP excuses. The flight will depart even if I am late," said Mr Mokabbir, adding all the passengers are VIPs to him.
Biman started the activities of Manchester station as an offline station in 1977. It started commercial operation in 1994 and operated three flights experimentally. It again operated flights from July 2006 till March 2007. Biman suspended operation in the route from April 2001 till October 2011. Biman again operated flights from November 2011 till September 2012.
At least 0.7 million Bangladeshi expatriates live in Manchester.
Manchester Airport has less operating cost, ground handling and airport charge compared to Heathrow Airport.
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