Biman Bangladesh Airlines

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"Biman" redirects here. For the village in Iran, see Biman, Iran.
Biman Bangladesh Airlines
বিমান বাংলাদেশ এয়ারলাইন্স
Biman Airlines classic logo.svg
IATA
BG
ICAO
BBC
Callsign
BANGLADESH
Founded 4 January 1972; 42 years ago (1972-01-04)
Commenced operations 4 February 1972 (1972-02-04)
Hubs
Secondary hubs
Frequent-flyer program Biman Loyalty Club[1]
Airport lounge The Maslin Lounge[2]
Subsidiaries
Fleet size 10
Destinations 21
Headquarters Balaka Bhaban
Kurmitola, Dhaka 1229, Bangladesh
Key people
  • Air Mshl (Retd.) Jamal Uddin Ahmed (Chairman)
  • A.M. Mosaddique Ahmed (acting CEO & MD)
Net income Increase −2 billion (FY 2012–13)
Website www.biman-airlines.com

Biman Bangladesh Airlines (Bengali: বিমান বাংলাদেশ এয়ারলাইন্স),[nb 1] partly transcribed from English into Bengali and the other way around, commonly known as Biman (Bengali: বিমান), is the national flag carrier of Bangladesh.[3] Its main hub is at Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka and it also operates flights from its secondary hubs at Shah Amanat International Airport in Chittagong and Osmani International Airport in Sylhet. The airline provides international passenger and cargo services to its destinations. It has air service agreements with 42 countries. The airline's headquarters, Balaka Bhaban, is located in Kurmitola, Dhaka. Annual Hajj flights; transporting tourists and non-resident Bangladeshi workers and migrants; and the activities of its subsidiaries form an integral part of the airline's business.[4]:11 The carrier is currently facing stiff competition from a number of domestic Bangladeshi private airlines as well as some international carriers, which offer greater flexibility targeting Bangladesh's air transport sector which is experiencing an 8% annual growth rate, thanks to a large number of tourists and non-resident Bangladeshi travellers.

Created in February 1972, Biman enjoyed an internal monopoly in the aviation industry of Bangladesh until 1996.[5] In the decades following its founding, the airline expanded its fleet and destinations but it was adversely affected by corruption and mismanagement. At its peak, Biman operated flights to 29 international destinations, extending from New York City in the west to Tokyo in the east. The airline was wholly owned and managed by the government of Bangladesh until 23 July 2007, when it was transformed into the country's largest public limited company by the Caretaker Government of Bangladesh. Since becoming a public limited company in 2007, the airline has reduced staff and begun to modernise its fleet. The airline has made a deal with Boeing for ten new aircraft along with options for ten more.[6] Biman Bangladesh Airlines is certified as safe to fly in Europe by the European Aviation Safety Agency[7][8] and it also successfully passed the IATA Operational Safety Audit and since then, the airline has resumed flights to some of its previous destinations in Asia and Europe.[9][10]

History[edit]

Biman Bangladesh Airlines was established on 4 January 1972 as Bangladesh's national airline under the Bangladesh Biman Ordinance (Presidential Order No. 126).[11][12] The initiative to launch the flag carrier was taken by 2,500 former employees, including ten Boeing 707 commanders and seven other pilots of Pakistan International Airlines, who submitted a proposal to the government on 31 December 1971 following the independence of Bangladesh.[13]:6 The airline was initially called Air Bangladesh but was soon changed to its current name.[14]

Fokker F-27 Friendship of Biman Bangladesh Airlines at the then Dum Dum Airport in 1974.

On 4 February 1972, Biman started its domestic services, initially linking Dhaka with Chittagong, Jessore and Sylhet, using a single Douglas DC-3 acquired from India.[15] Following the crash of this DC-3 on 10 February 1972, near Dhaka, during a test flight,[16] two Fokker F27s belonging to Indian Airlines and supplied by the Indian government entered the fleet as a replacement.[15] Shortly afterwards, additional capacity was provided with the incorporation of a Douglas DC-6, loaned by the World Council of Churches,[15] which was in turn replaced with another Douglas DC-6, a DC-6B model leased from Troll-Air, to operate the Dhaka-Calcutta route.[17] On 4 March 1972, Biman started its international operations with a weekly flight to London using a Boeing 707 chartered from British Caledonian.[18] The short haul fleet was supplemented by a Fokker F27 from India on 3 March 1972; the aircraft was employed on a daily scheduled flight between Calcutta and Dhaka on 28 April 1972.[13]:7 Three additional Fokker F27s were acquired during March and September of that year.[13]:6 In the first year of operation, Biman operated 1,079 flights carrying just over 380,000 passengers.[13]:8

A Biman Bangladesh Airlines Boeing 707-320C on short final to London Heathrow Airport in 1981.

Four Fokker F27s joined the fleet in 1973, enabling Biman to double the frequency of the Kolkata flight to a twice daily service.[13]:7 A Boeing 707 was added to the fleet in September and the flight to London became twice-weekly, while a Chittagong–Kolkata flight also began operating.[13]:7 In 1974, operations were extended to Kathmandu (February), Bangkok (November) and Dubai (December).[13]:7 In 1976, Biman sold two of its Fokker F27s and bought another Boeing 707 to extend international services to Abu Dhabi, Karachi and Mumbai.[13]:7 Singapore was added to Biman's list of international destinations, when a third Boeing 707 was purchased in February 1977, followed by Jeddah, Doha and Amsterdam the following year, which also saw the purchase of its fourth Boeing 707.[13]:7 In 1977, Biman was converted into a public sector corporation to be governed by a board of directors appointed by the government.[13]:7 The airline broke even for the first time in 1977–78, and made a profit the following year.[13]:8 International destinations expanded to include Kuala Lumpur, Athens, Muscat and Tripoli in 1979, followed by Yangon, Tokyo and Dhahran in 1980.[13]:7 Biman took delivery of its first 85-seater Fokker F28-4000 in 1981.[19] In 1983, three Douglas DC-10s joined the fleet and the airline started to phase out the Boeing 707s.[13]:7[20] The flight network expanded further to include Baghdad (1983), Paris (1984) and Bahrain (1986).[13]:7 On 5 August 1984, Biman faced its worst accident ever when a Fokker F27 flying in from Chittagong crashed near Dhaka, killing all 49 on board.[21] The long haul fleet was then supplemented by the purchase of two new Airbus A310s in 1996, followed by the addition of two more in 2000, from Singapore Airlines and Air Jamaica, and another in 2003.[13]:7

Corporate affairs[edit]

Key people[edit]

A Biman Bangladesh Airlines Boeing 777-300ER on short final to London Heathrow Airport in 2013.

As of September 2014, the chairman position was held by Air Mshl (Retd.) Jamal Uddin Ahmed;[22] A.M. Mosaddique Ahmed was the acting managing director (MD) and chief executive officer (CEO).[23]

Kevin John Steele,[24] who served as MD and CEO of Biman from March 2013 to April 2014,[25][26] was the first foreign national in the airline's history to be appointed CEO and MD of Biman.[27] He was chosen from a pool of 42 local and foreign candidates after a competitive selection process.[27] Steele is a British citizen who has many years of experience working in management and administrative positions at British Airways and other airlines around the world.[28][29] Steele resigned to Biman '​s MD and CEO positions in December 2013 (2013-12) citing health issues.[30] Steele left office on 19 April 2014 (2014-04-19).[31]

Ownership[edit]

The airline was wholly owned by the Bangladeshi government through the Bangladesh Biman Corporation since its inception. In 1977, Biman was converted into a public sector corporation which afforded Biman limited autonomy, led by a government-appointed board of directors.[13]:7 The authorised share capital was increased to BDT 2 billion in 1987,[32][not in citation given] and Biman was transformed into a public limited company, the largest in Bangladesh, in 2007.[33]

Privatisation[edit]

1980s[edit]

During the late 1980s, Hossain Mohammad Ershad, President of Bangladesh at the time, served as president of Biman. After an early period of expansion and growth, Biman entered an era of nose-diving profits and slow growth, exacerbated by incompetent and corrupt management, who padded purchases, falsified repair bills, and kept unprofitable routes in operation for political reasons.[34][35] Research conducted in 1996 found that Biman had 5,253 non-flying personnel, 30 percent more than Singapore Airlines, a carrier who operated a fleet almost ten times the size of Biman's. The report described Biman as "poorly managed, overstaffed, undercapitalized, and subject to excessive political interference in its day-to-day management."[36]

1990s[edit]

Biman Bangladesh Airlines F28-4000 Fellowship at Bangkok-Don Mueang Airport in 1995.

In the 1992–93 fiscal year, accounts under the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism revealed that BDT 22 million in tax was not paid to the government. The audit carried out in 1999, also showed that Biman was owed BDT 2.2 million by travel agents from the proceeds of ticket sales, most likely with the collusion of Biman officials.[37] Additionally, BDT 2.4 million was overpaid as incentive commissions to the sales agents in violation of Biman policies. In 2007, the caretaker government launched an anti-corruption drive. This was shortly followed by the forced retirement of 35 other employees and officials, some of whom were close aides of Shamim Iskander.[38] In 2008 Iskander, younger brother of former premier Khaleda Zia, was sent to jail over charges of concealing information regarding his wealth and not for his connection with Biman.[39][40]

Faced with growing losses from the late 1990s onwards,[41][42] the government offered 40 percent of Biman to foreign airlines in 2004, hoping a buyer would take over the management of the carrier. However, the proposal demanded that many decision-making rights remain within the Bangladesh government, and the offer was ignored by outside airlines. A similar initiative in 1998 cost Biman $1.6 million in consultancy fees with no positive results.[43]

2000s[edit]

In the 2005–06 fiscal year, Biman carried 1.15 million passengers, a growth of 70% over the previous decade. With the rise of private domestic carriers in Bangladesh, however, Biman's market share for domestic passengers dropped by 35% over the previous ten years' average, with only 162,000 passengers travelling with Biman in the domestic sector in the 2005–06 fiscal year. During the same period, Biman reported its biggest annual loss of over US$120 million (BDT 8.3 billion as of 2010), with a US$100 million (BDT 6.9 billion as of 2010) loss reported the following year.[44] Biman also fell behind on millions of dollars in payments to its fuel supplier, the Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC),[45] with debts that rose to BDT 15.64 billion in late December 2006 (2006-12).[46]

Public limited company[edit]

A Biman Bangladesh Airlines McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 landing at Shahjalal International Airport in 2012.

In May 2007 (2007-05), the caretaker government approved plans to turn Biman into a public limited company with shareholdings split between seven public sector organisations.[47] As a part of the restructuring, the government put in place a voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) to reduce the man-equipment ratio (MER) of 367:1 (ratio of manpower to aircraft).[48] The industry average at the time was 200:1, and other Asian airlines operated with MERs of about 150:1.[48] The VRS provided compensation based on length of service, at a cost to the government of over BDT 2.97 billion borrowed from the World Bank.[48] Biman management expected to reduce its workforce by 1,600, but 2,162 applications were received, many from employees who expected to be dismissed with little or no severance pay if the quota was not met. Biman accepted between 1,863[49][50][51] and 1877 applications,[52] and affirmed that key personnel would not be allowed to leave the organisation via VRS.[48]

On 23 July 2007,[53] Biman Bangladesh Airlines became the largest public limited company in Bangladesh.[33] Earlier suggestions that the airline should be renamed Bangladesh Airlines were rejected.[54] The government is the sole shareholder of the 1.5 billion shares, but intends to offer 49 percent to the private sector while retaining majority ownership.[55][56] The previous managing director, Dr. Abdul Momen, was appointed as the chief executive officer (CEO) and managing director of the new organisation. The six directors were appointed from the ministries of energy, commerce, finance, civil aviation, foreign affairs, and the cabinet division, with the cabinet secretary taking on the role as chairman of the board of directors. The six secretaries and a joint secretary to the civil aviation ministry were made the seven shareholders of the new PLC.[55] In September 2008 (2008-09), the government appointed Air Commodore Zahed Kuddus (retd) to replace Dr. Momen as CEO.[57] From 2002 to 2005 Kuddus had been chair of the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB), before which he had held various posts in the Bangladesh Air Force.[58]

Following the privatisation, an initiative was launched by ex-Biman employees, who left the organisation via the VRS, to set up a competing airline.[59] Names proposed for the airline included Air Bangla International, Biman Employees Airlines and Balaka.[60] They were joined by previous managing directors of Biman, along with the former president of the Bangladesh Airline Pilots' Association.[59] However, nothing further was heard of regarding the proposed venture.

The airline made profits in FY 2007–08 (BDT 60 million) and FY 2008–09 (BDT 150 million); In FY 2009–10, however, the carrier incurred in a net loss of BDT 800 million.[61]

2010s[edit]

In FY 2010–11 it made losses of BDT 2 billion,[61] despite the government exempting it a debt of about BDT 11.94 billion and BDT 5.73 billion owed to the BPC and the CAAB, respectively.[62] In FY 2011–12 it made a loss of BDT 6.06 billion (US$75 million);[61] in FY 2012–13 unaudited figures show a loss of BDT 2 billion.[63] The airline plans to be fully profitable by FY 2014–15.[23] As of December 2013, Biman owed BDT 15.60 billion to different sources;[63] of which BDT 3676.2 million to CAAB[64] and BDT 8.50 billion to Padma Oil Company, its fuel supplier.[63]

Subsidiaries[edit]

Biman's subsidiaries are associated with aircraft ground handling, aviation engineering, aviation training and flight catering.[65] There are five wholly owned subsidiaries, including:

Company Main activity Founded
Biman Ground Handling (BGH) Aircraft ground handling 1972
Biman Engineering Aviation engineering 2004
Bangladesh Airlines Training Centre (BATC) Aviation training 1987
Biman Flight Catering Centre (BFCC) Flight catering 1989
Biman Poultry Complex (BPC) Poultry farming complex 1980

Since 1972, BGH provides ground-handling services for all airports in Bangladesh;[66][67] the company reported a profit of BDT 4.5 billion for the FY 2011–12.[66] The wholly owned subsidiary BFCC was set up in 1989 to provide in-flight meals.[68] It is one of Biman's profitable operations,[68] supplying food to Saudia, Etihad, Malaysia Airlines, Thai Airways, Emirates, Dragon Air, China Southern Airlines and Regent Airways, along with casual orders from other airlines operating into Bangladesh.[65] The BFCC consumes 90% of the eggs and chickens from the BPC, another profit-making subsidiary of Biman formed in 1976 and put into operation in November 1980 to rear poultry at farms in Dhaka.[65][68] Bird flu was detected at one of the farms in March 2007, and many of the birds were culled.[69][70] This was the first incident of bird flu in Bangladesh.[71]

Services[edit]

The interior of a DC-10 aircraft showing the backs of seats. The overhead lockers are mostly open.
The interior of a Biman McDonnell Douglas DC-10

Biman is notable for disruptions to its flight schedule and poor customer service.[72] In 2007, Biman faced strong criticism from major international airports including London Heathrow Airport and Dubai International Airport for its failure to maintain flight schedules. Heathrow Airport operator BAA wrote to Biman providing evidence which showed Biman had not achieved the minimum 80% usage of its allocated landing slots at Heathrow, as required by EU and International Air Transport Association (IATA) regulations, during the summer of 2007. Biman should, therefore, not expect slot allocations at Heathrow for the summer of 2008 and should look to Stansted or Gatwick airports if it wished to continue serving London.[73] Following discussions with BAA, however, Biman obtained landing slots for the summer of 2008 on condition that it achieved 80% usage.[74] Delays continued unabated and in September 2008, Biman's Dhaka–London direct flight utilising a DC-10 aircraft was diverted and landed at Gatwick when it did not have sufficient fuel to remain in a holding pattern over Heathrow following arrival over three hours after the scheduled time.[75] In a 10 September 2008 article published in The Times, Biman was labelled the worst performer for punctuality at Heathrow, with flights delayed on average by three hours.[76] In 2008, the United Nations advised its staff not to fly with Biman, citing both safety and security concerns and Biman's unreliable flight schedules. It was made clear that UN staff who flew with Biman did so at their own risk, and would be ineligible to make claims on insurance. Biman's then newly appointed managing director said he was unaware of the UN directive, but admitted that Biman did face problems in managing its flight schedules. He expected the situation to improve with the procurement of aircraft in the coming months.[77]

In 2013, Biman signed agreements with SITA[78] and Mercator[79] to provide infrastructure support and revenue accounting services to the airline.

In 2014, Biman launched advance seat reservation system on its website. The airline also offers online meal selection option, where the passenger can choose from diabetic meals, vegetarian meals, Asian vegetarian meal, child meal and Muslim meal, that will be served on board.[80]

Flight classes[edit]

Costlier leather seats are used in Biman's Boeing 737-800 (S2-AFL tail).

A two-class service (J and Y) is operated on all of Biman's airliners. The Business Class cabin on its Boeing 777 are arranged in a 2–3–2 configuration, while economy class cabin is setup in a 3–3–3 configuration. The narrow-body Boeing 737-800s' Business Class is set up in a 2–2 configuration while Economy Class is in a 3–3 arrangement. The older Airbus A310s have a 2-4-2 configuration in Economy Class; 2-3-2 in Business Class.

In-flight amenities[edit]

Biman relaunched its inflight magazine re-branded as Bihanga in September 2013. The bi-monthly magazine, previously known as Diganta, and prior to that Jatri, is published by Subcontinental Media Group. The magazine is available in both Bengali and English, covering topics about Bangladesh and Biman's destinations.[81] English and Bengali language newspapers are also available on board in the aircraft.[citation needed]

The newer Boeing 777s are equipped with modern in-flight entertainment. Every seat is fitted with personal touch screen displays provided by Thales. It is loaded with movies, songs and games. It also has high resolution moving maps and live flight information. It is in two languages – English and Bengali.[82]

The Airbus A310s have monitors that drop down from the ceiling below the luggage racks in the center of the aircraft. While other airlines using modern aircraft are able to provide more personal in-flight experiences via seatback LCD screens, Biman's older aircraft have maintained the standard equipment available when the planes were manufactured.[citation needed]

Biman launched in-flight duty free sales on March 2014, branded as Biman Boutique.[83] The duty-free products include: perfumes, cosmetics, jewelleries, watches, children's gifts, chocolate and tobacco.[84]

In 2014, Biman launched amenity kit for children on-board which include coloring books, stationery, dolls and jigsaw puzzle.[80]

Frequent-flyer program[edit]

Biman Loyalty Club, the frequent flyer program of the airline.

Biman launched a frequent-flyer program, named Biman Loyalty Club, in November 2013.[1][85] It offers rewards such as tiered benefits, mileage bonuses, extra baggage, lounge access and priority check-in at airports.[1]

As of July 2014, the frequent-flyer program had 8,000 members.[86]

Ticketing[edit]

An agreement was signed with Amadeus in 2007 to upgrade Biman's ticketing system with an e-ticketing solution to comply with IATA rules, which set out a deadline of 31 December 2007 for all member airlines to switch over their ticketing systems. E-ticketing has enabled major airlines to provide online check-in facilities, reducing the need to queue up at check-in counters. However, Biman has not made any attempts to improve customer service through the adoption of e-ticketing, although it has been able to reduce its own costs.[87] In 2005, Biman had briefly stopped using the Amadeus ticketing system when the government suspended the operation of a local Amadeus subsidiary following a court order, after allegations of money laundering.[88] The suspension, however, lasted only a month, and was lifted after the writ was appealed in the High Court.[89]

In 2013, Biman signed an agreement with German e-ticketing company Hahn Air, enabling Biman's tickets to be purchased from anywhere around the world.[90]

Biman Cargo[edit]

Biman also operates a cargo service using the cargo holds of its passenger aircraft to ship freight to international destinations.[91] It has established Cargo Village at Shahjalal International Airport where the cargo is packaged and labelled before being loaded onto its aircraft.[92]

While the air cargo industry in Bangladesh grew by 16.5% in the fiscal year 2003–04, Biman's cargo operations remained stagnant when private operators such as Bismillah Airlines, Best Aviation and Air Bangladesh produced a 108% growth from the previous year. The private operators increased their share of the cargo market by 10.6% and were responsible for handling 24% of the total 99,000 tonnes of cargo at the expense of both Biman and foreign airlines which saw a reduction in their shares by 4.6% and 6.0% respectively. Foreign airlines handled 47% of the total cargo with Biman taking on the remaining 29%.[93]

As with its passenger service and management, corruption has also been rife at Biman Cargo. An investigation in 2004 uncovered irregularities in a number of Biman's Middle East operations which deprived the government of millions of dollars in revenue. Biman officials in Dubai were found to have been "extending special privileges" to the main freight handler in exchange for bribes.[94] The smuggling of foreign currency and gold bars is reported to have taken place at the Biman Cargo Village by Biman and CAAB employees. A number of arrests were made but the perpetrators evaded punishment through lack of evidence and pressure from the CAAB union.[95]

Destinations[edit]

As of November 2014, Biman serves 21 destinations, 18 of them international.[3][96][97] However, the carrier has air service agreements with 43 countries leaving room for expansion for which it lacks aircraft.[98] The airline operates flights to several destinations in the Middle East, some destinations in South and South East Asia; London and Rome in Europe.[96]

Biman plans to resume services to New York City via Birmingham.[when?][3][99][100] The airline also plans to commence flights to Guangzhou and Kunming in China.[96][when?]

Biman has an interline agreement with Deutsche Bahn, for connecting passengers to and from Frankfurt throughout Germany.[101]

New York and Manchester[edit]

From 1993 to 2006, Biman operated flights to John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York City, from Dhaka via Brussels.[102][103] New York was Biman's farthest and most prestigious destination, and was kept operational despite heavy financial losses to maintain a landing slot in the US which, if cancelled, could be difficult to regain.[104] To curb the losses, Biman reduced the service to one flight per week and re-routed it through Manchester Airport, UK,[103] capitalising on travel demands from the expatriate Bangladeshi community in the north of England. On 8 April 2006, Biman's inaugural flight to Manchester landed at Manchester Airport en route to JFK.[105] However, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had placed the CAAB into Category 2 (does not meet International Civil Aviation Organization standards) according to its International Aviation Safety Assessment Program,[106] which placed additional restrictions on the country's airlines when flying to the US. A former CAAB assistant director made scathing remarks about the CAAB in an opinion article in the Aviatour, a monthly travel and tourism supplement of Bangladeshi news magazine Weekly Holiday.[107] For Biman, this meant that it could continue flying to the US, but could not expand or make alterations to its routes, such as changing the transit from Brussels to Manchester. The FAA fined Biman for breaching its rules, and flights to New York were again re-routed through Brussels.[108]

The FAA had already warned Biman to replace its ageing DC-10s by December 2005. According to experts, these aircraft were inadequately equipped to safely cross the Atlantic.[109][110] On 13 May 2006, the FAA refused permission for Biman flight BG001 (Dhaka–Brussels–JFK) to enter its airspace, citing safety concerns over the ailing DC–10 aircraft used on the route.[111][112] The flight was diverted to Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport in Canada, where the passengers were provided with alternative airline options to complete their journey.[113] Canadian authorities inspected the aircraft and gave it a clean bill of health after which the aircraft returned to Dhaka without any passengers. The FAA eventually admitted it was mistaken and apologised for the error.[114][115]

The incident put an end to the route,[116] which had been losing US$80,000 per flight,[111] owing to its use of obsolete DC-10s.[117] Biman decided to axe the route along with a number of other regional and domestic routes to curb the huge losses being incurred by the airline each month.[118] However, in October 2007, Biman was directed by the then caretaker government to resume flights to New York. Biman was given until 25 October 2008 (extended from an earlier deadline of 23 March 2008) to resume flights to the airport by the JFK airport authority, after which it would have lost the landing slot permanently.[119]

Hajj flights[edit]

The annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca for the Hajj is undertaken by thousands of Bangladesh's predominantly Muslim population. Biman has been the sole Bangladeshi airline permitted by the government to provide flights for pilgrims to King Abdulaziz International Airport, Jeddah. Every year, the commencement of these flights is inaugurated by high-ranking government officials, including, at times, the Prime Minister.[120][121][122]

In 2002, the government opened the service to private tour operators for the first time.[123] The initial private flights were plagued with delays, with both outgoing and return flights postponed for as long as nine days,[122][124] which caused the Bangladesh government to return the Hajj flights' monopoly to Biman.[citation needed]

Boeing 747-200 leased by Biman from Kabo Air.

Biman's handling of Hajj flights has also been beset with troubles. In 2005, the State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism resigned after complaints that he set fares too high.[125] In 2006, Biman took the unprecedented step of removing the business–class seats from its dedicated Hajj flights to accommodate more economy-class passengers.[126] Procedural irregularities by the Hajj agencies delayed the confirmation of pilgrims' visas, and Biman had to cancel 19 flights owing to lack of sufficient passengers. Once the situation was resolved, Biman was then unable to offer the required number of flights to cope with the backlog of passengers.[127][128]

In June 2007, the caretaker government approved a three-year Hajj policy aiming to alleviate the problems encountered during the previous two years. Hajj flights would also begin leaving from Bangladesh's two other international airports, Shah Amanat International Airport and Osmani International Airport.[129] Biman put out a tender for the wet lease of two aircraft for additional Hajj flights and reached an agreement with Phuket Air. However, the deal fell through in August 2007 after Phuket Air demanded advance payment of 30% instead of the previously agreed-to 10%.[130] Ausban Aeronautical Services of Australia was selected next, following a re-tender, to fill the gap left by Phuket Air.[131] In 2008, Biman wet-leased a 542-seater Boeing 747-200 from Kabo Air of Nigeria for six months to operate flights to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.[132] Another 512-seater Boeing 747-300 was leased from Orient Thai Airlines.[133]

As of June 2014, Biman still experienced difficulties in providing their scheduled services, as the carrier gave priority to the transportation of pilgrims to Jeddah during the Hajj season using aircraft that otherwise were flown on its regular flights.[134][135] Despite this, the airline reported a profit of almost BDT 1 billion from the 2012 Hajj season, the highest results ever since these services were started in 1973.[136]

Fleet[edit]

A Biman Bangladesh Airlines Boeing 737-800 approaches Singapore Changi Airport in 2012.

A vintage Douglas Dakota and Douglas DC-3 were the first aircraft in Biman's fleet.[20] Domestic operations commenced with the acquisition of four Fokker F27 aircraft flying passengers to Chittagong and Sylhet from its base in Dhaka. Shortly afterwards, a Boeing 707, chartered from British Caledonian, joined the airline's fleet, allowing Biman to begin international flights. In 1983, Biman purchased three McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 aircraft from Singapore Airlines to provide services on its long haul routes.[11][20] The British Aerospace ATP entered the fleet in late 1990, coming to replace the Fokker F27s.[137]

During the mid-1990s, Biman switched its airliner of choice for long haul routes to the Airbus series of aircraft. In 1995, two PW4000-powered Airbus A310-300s were ordered;[138][139] the first of them joined the fleet on 15 June 1996 (1996-06-15).[140] It nevertheless retained its elderly DC–10 fleet, even though the aircraft had been banned by several countries (notably the USA) because of safety concerns.

For over three decades, the DC–10–30s were Biman's sole widebody aircraft and served the airline consistently well, with no noteworthy mechanical problems – in marked contrast to the record of its domestic operations. These were operated with Fokker F28 and BAe ATPs which were routinely out of service because of technical trouble. In one incident, a government minister disembarked a flight and travelled by road when he learned that the aircraft he was on was a BAe ATP.[141] In January 2003, Biman leased two Boeing 737-300s which were used on domestic and regional routes for eighteen months.[142] These acted as a replacement for the BAe ATPs.[citation needed]

McDonnell Douglas DC-10s and Airbus A310-300s made up most of Biman's international fleet, before the delivery of the modern Boeing 777-300ERs started in 2011.[143] Fokker F28s made up the remainder of the fleet for the domestic and regional sectors, before they were retired in 2012.[144] Biman's fleet contains the second-to-last Douglas DC–10 to come off the production line (l/n 445), and only three other Airbus A310–300s were produced following Biman's purchase of two new Airbus A310s in 1996.[145] The two Fokker F28–4000s were acquired from PBair in 2004 at a cost of $2.91 million.[146] Both of these aircraft were built in 1977, making Biman's latest acquisitions the oldest aircraft in its fleet.[147] The ageing fleet made it difficult for Biman to maintain its flight schedule, as the aircraft suffered from mechanical problems, leading to flight delays and cancellations.[72][148] A number of aircraft remained grounded owing to lack of spare parts as they are no longer manufactured and used parts are difficult to source.[149] A deal was signed in January 2012 (2012-01) a three-year contract with a German company for the maintenance of their powerplants, for the DC–10s.[150] The airline operates its own ancillary and maintenance facilities at Shahjalal International Airport, where it carries out all maintenance work and C-Checks on DC–10–30s and A310–300s.[151]

Modernisation[edit]

2000s[edit]

In 2000, Biman put out a request for proposal for the acquisition of four wide-bodied aircraft to replace the DC–10s, but both the fleet renewal plans and the airline's expected privatisation were shelved by the government.[152] A further attempt was made in 2005 to acquire new aircraft and plans were submitted for the purchase of ten new wide-bodied Airbus and Boeing aircraft at a total cost of $1 billion.[153] Boeing arranged to finance the purchase provided a guarantee was given by the Bangladesh government. After bureaucratic delays and a perceived lack of commitment from the government, Boeing lost interest and the plans were cancelled.[149] A similar attempt to purchase medium-haul aircraft for domestic service was also postponed.[154] In March 2007 (2007-03), Biman put out a tender for the dry lease of two Airbus A310-300 and two Airbus A300-600 aircraft for two years.[155] The sole response to the tender came from Star Aviation of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).[156]

A Biman Bangladesh Airlines Airbus A310-300 in old livery approaches London Heathrow Airport in 2005.

After Biman became a public limited company, renewed attempts were made to procure new-generation aircraft to replace its ageing fleet. In November 2007, Boeing made an offer to supply Biman with four Boeing 777-200s (with options for two more) to be delivered by 2013 and four Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners (with options for two more) to be delivered by 2017 and provide similar aircraft on lease for the interim period beginning in 2009.[citation needed] The average price of these aircraft was quoted as US$165 million.[citation needed] Airbus also made an offer to supply four Airbus A320 or Airbus A330 series aircraft at a much lower price than that of Boeing.[citation needed] To manage the fleet in the short run, Biman again floated a tender in January 2008 to purchase/dry lease with options to purchase two used Airbus A310-300 aircraft.[157]

On 10 March 2008, the Biman management unveiled a plan to procure eight next-generation wide-bodied aircraft from Boeing Commercial Airplanes for a total cost of US$1.26 billion, including four 419-seater Boeing 777-300ER (average price of US$182.9 million per unit), and four Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners that will seat 294 (US$133.31 million per unit), to be delivered in 2017.[157] The deal for the acquisition of these eight aircraft was signed with Boeing in April 2008,[158] and also included a memorandum of understanding for the purchase of two Boeing 737-800s to be delivered in 2015,[159][160] with Biman making an initial instalment of US$1.54 million.[161] Of the remaining cost, US-based EXIM bank will finance 85%, while a syndication of local banks will finance the balance.[162] In June the same year, Biman placed a firm order for two Boeing 737-800s, and took options for two more aircraft of the type.[163] The total order for these ten aircraft was valued at around US$2.5 billion.[164]

2010s[edit]

A Biman Bangladesh Airlines Airbus A310-300 landing at Shahjalal International Airport in 2012.

In 2010, Biman leased two Boeing 777-200ERs from EuroAtlantic Airways. These aircraft were used mainly on routes to European destinations to cover the interim period before the delivery of the first two new Boeing 777-300ERs in 2011.[165] To secure the delivery of these two brand new 777-300ERs the airline used an initial US$277 million loan granted from JPMorgan Chase.[164][166][167] Wearing a new livery, the carrier took delivery of its first Boeing 777-300ER in late October 2011.[168][169] It was the 300th 777-300ER delivered by Boeing.[170][171] The 301st ever delivered Boeing 777-300ER also went to Biman;[172] the airline took possession of it in late November 2011 (2011-11).[173] The third Boeing 777-300ER, named Aakash Pradeep, was handed over to the carrier in February 2014 (2014-02);[174] the fourth one, named Raanga Pravat, joined the fleet in March 2014 (2014-03),[175] following the government approving a US$356 million loan, of which US$290 million will be provided by the Ex-Im Bank and the rest by the Standard Chartered Bank.[176]

Biman retired its entire McDonnell Douglas DC-10 fleet on 20 February 2014, by operating a special Dhaka-Birmingham farewell flight with its last DC-10, with a stopover at Kuwait; the carrier also operated nine separate aviation enthusiasts' scenic flights at Birmingham, from 22–24 February, three flights a day.[177] The last DC-10 will then be scrapped locally in Dhaka.[178][179] The Airbus A310-300s will also be phased out by 2015.[180]

As a plan to resume full domestic services, it is planning to dry lease two turboprop aircraft for a period of five years.[181] Domestic flights to Cox's Bazar, Jessore, Saidpur, Rajshahi and Barisal are likely to resume in January 2015;[96]<[182] initially it was supposed to resume in November 2013, which Biman failed to as it was unable to find a lessor of aircraft.[183] The carrier leased two Boeing 777-200ER aircraft from EgyptAir in March 2014.[184] It wants to expand its fleet to 16 aircraft, to allow route expansion.[185]

Livery[edit]

A rebranding of Biman in 2010, scrapped after 2 months

In modern Bengali, the word বিমান biman refers to "aeroplane", originating from the Sanskrit word vimāna, a name given to a flying machine mentioned in ancient Vedic literature. The logo, painted on the tail, is a stylised white stork (বলাকা bôlaka) inside a red circle. The logo was designed by painter Quamrul Hassan.[186] The initial livery was a dark blue line extending across the aircraft along the windows and covering the tail section. This was replaced in the 1980s by dark green and red lines, matching the colours of the Bangladesh flag, and has remained so for over two decades.

A Boeing 737-800, Boeing 777-300ER and Airbus A310-300 standing at the airline's hub, Shahjalal International Airport, wearing all three liveries.

In 2010, Biman went through a rebranding exercise and unveiled a new logo and livery, designed by Teague, which was applied to its leased Boeing 777 and 737 aircraft.[187][188] However, following change of government, Biman was forced to revert to the original branding as the new brand image was not endorsed by the incoming government. The carrier has adopted a new, more modern revised version of its livery, that was applied to the new Boeing 777-300ERs delivered in late 2011.

The bôlaka has also given its name to the Biman headquarters, the Balaka Bhaban (বলাকা ভবন bôlaka bhôban, Stork Building),[189][190][191] and a landmark sculpture in Dhaka depicting storks is in front of Biman's former headquarters,[192] the Biman Bhaban in the Motijheel Commercial Area in Dhaka.[193]

Current[edit]

Biman Bangladesh Airlines current fleet
A Boeing 777-300ER approaching London Heathrow Airport in 2014, wearing the latest livery. This livery is worn by the four Boeing 777-300ERs, two Boeing 777-200ERs and an Airbus A310-300.
A Boeing 737-800 on short final to Singapore Changi Airport in 2010. This livery is worn by the two Boeing 737-800s.
An Airbus A310-300 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in 2007, wearing the old livery. This livery is only worn by one of the Airbus A310-300.
This set of images shows the evolution of Biman's livery, with the latest one on the left and the oldest at the right. As of September 2014, these three liveries are worn by Biman's aircraft.

As of September 2014, the Biman Bangladesh Airlines fleet included the following aircraft:[194]

Biman Bangladesh Airlines Fleet
Aircraft In service Orders Options Passengers Notes
J W Y Total
Airbus A310-300 2 25 196 221
25 198 223
Boeing 737-800 2 2[164] 2[164] 12 150 162 New aircraft to be delivered in November and December 2015.[194][195]
Boeing 777-200ER 2 12 21[196] 286 319 On lease from EgyptAir.[3]
Boeing 777-300ER 4 4[197] 35 384 419
Boeing 787-8 4[174] 4[197] TBA Entry into service: 2019–2020[194]
Total 10 6 10

Historical Fleet[edit]

The carrier also formerly operated the following aircraft:[198]

Accidents and incidents[edit]

As of November 2013, Aviation Safety Network records 11 accidents/incidents for Biman Bangladesh Airlines, with only two of them leading to fatalities.[16]

Date Location Aircraft Registration Aircraft damage Total on board Fatalities Description Refs
10 October 1972 Dhaka DC-3 Unknown W/O 5 5 Crashed near Dhaka during a training flight. [199]
18 November 1979 Savar Bazar F27-200 S2-ABG W/O 4 0 Forced landed in a field near Savar Bazar following the flameout of both engines. [200][201]
3 April 1980 Singapore Boeing 707-320C S2-ABQ W/O 74 0 Named "City of Bayezed Bostami", lost power following takeoff from Paya Lebar Airport, reaching an altitude of some 100 feet (30 m) and sinking back to the runway with the landing gear retracted. The aircraft, that was due to operate an international scheduled Singapore–Dhaka passenger service, skidded for about 2,000 feet (610 m) before it came to rest. [202][203]
5 August 1984 Dhaka F27-600 S2-ABJ W/O 49 49 Crashed on approach to Zia International Airport, inbound from Chittagong, some 500 metres (1,600 ft) short of the runway, after several missed approaches amid inclement weather.[nb 2] The accident is the worst aviation disaster to occur on Bangladeshi soil. [21][204]
22 December 1997 Sylhet F28-4000 S2-ACJ W/O 89 0 While on approach to Sylhet inbound from Dhaka as Flight 609, the aircraft made a belly landing on paddy fields, 5.6 kilometres (3.5 mi) short of Sylhet Civil Airport, in heavy fog. [205][206][207][208]

[209]

8 October 2004 Sylhet F28-4000 S2-ACH W/O 79 0 Inbound from Dhaka as Flight 601, the aircraft made a long landing at Osmani International Airport in heavy rain and overshot the end of the runway by 150 feet (46 m), coming to rest in a ditch 15 feet (4.6 m) deep. [210][211]
1 July 2005 Chittagong DC-10-30ER S2-ADN W/O 216 0 The aircraft that was operating an international scheduled Dubai–Chittagong–Dhaka passenger service as Flight 48 whe it ran off the runway immediately after touchdown at Shah Amanat International Airport amid inclement weather; following the collapse of the starboard main undercarriage, the right-hand side engine got separated from the wing and caught fire as the aircraft sank into the mud. Some passengers got injuries while the aircraft was evacuated, but all of the occupants managed to escape from it safely. An enquiry found no failures with the aircraft and put the blame for the accident on the incompetence of the pilot, who was fired. [212][213][214][215][216]
12 March 2007 Dubai A310-300 S2-ADE W/O 236 0 The nose gear collapsed on the takeoff run at Dubai International Airport. The aircraft came to rest at the end of the airport's sole active runway, blocking it for more than eight hours. There were 236 people on board; only a few of them sustained minor injuries. Due to operate an international scheduled Dubai–Dhaka passenger service. [217][218][219][220]

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ বিমান (biman) means initially a vehicle, a charriot. This word applies also to an aircraft and to the sky. Derived terms mean aerodrome (ঘাঁটি – together with বিমানাঙ্গন, airfield), aviation (চলন), pilot (চালক), airport (বন্দর) or aeronautics (বিদ্যা), among others. Biman Bangladesh is the exact translation of Air Bangladesh.
  2. ^ It was also stated that the aircraft crashed beyond the runway.[204]

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External links[edit]