Biman resumes domestic operations in full with hope to avoid loss in the sector

8bimanDhaka : Biman Bang-ladesh Airlines Limi-ted (Biman) has resu-med domestic operation in full_ in all 7 destinations_ from April 6.

Due to shortage of aircraft, Biman suspended operations on four of the seven domestic routes in 2007. The last route_ Dhaka-Cox’s Bazar was shut down in June 2012. After that the airline carried passengers to and from Sylhet and Chittagong by its international flights.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina formally declared re-launching of full domestic operations at a ceremony, staged at VVIP terminal of HSJIA on April 5. Rashed Khan Menon, Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism was special guest at the function.

The Prime Minister also unveiled two Canada-built Dash-8 Q400 aircraft. Earlier, Biman signed an agreement with Smart Aviation of Egypt for leasing two Dash8 Q400s for a period of five years on dry lease. Manufactured by Bombardier of Canada, Dash8 Q400 has 74 seats in a single class.

The carrier said that, with effect from April 6, per week, it would operate 6 flights to Cox’s Bazar, 5 to Jessore, 3 to both Rajshahi and Syedpur and 2 to Barisal. Furthermore, it will add up to 25 additional frequencies per week on Chittagong and Sylhet routes.

The additional destinations will be operated by 74-seat Dash8Q400 aircraft. Both Chittagong and Sylhet will also get other aircraft types, depending on market demand on the routes.

In total, the airline will see massive growth in flights within Bangladesh, operating over 120 flights per week. The total number of seats will grow almost 80 per cent weekly to a considerable 14,010.

Improve customer services
Speaking on the occasion, Sheikh Hasina stressed the need for enhancement of customer services. She said that Biman is the national flag carrier, so its employees must work to provide international standard customer services, to passengers of both international and domestic sectors.

She specially mentioned the trouble that passengers had to undergo after landing at Dhaka, due to poor ground handling. To overcome the poor ground handling, the Prime Minister stressed the need for having efficient partner in this regard.

“The quality of ground handling has to be developed and we need to look for partner, to achieve that”, she said and commented that working with partner would help Biman employees to learn skills.

Sheikh Hasina said the 2016 is going to be observed as Visit Bangladesh Year. So, as national flag carrier, Biman must drawing programmes and improve services, to make the campaign a success. She also asked Biman to earn customer loyalty through better services, to be a profitable airline.

Hasina said resumption of domestic flights would meet the long-standing demands of the travelling public. She also spoke about starting cargo services.

“Cargo services are vital to turn Biman into a profit-making enterprise. It can never become profitable by skipping cargo and only flying passengers on domestic and international routes.”

She also said the Cox’s Bazar and Sayedpur would be turned into international airports. Syedpur will be vital for the links with Bhutan while Cox’s Bazar will be crucial for tourism and refuelling.

The prime minister also spoke about building an airport in Bagerhat and announced speedy implementation of a plan to upgrade Shahjalal International Airport by developing second runway, third terminal and more boarding bridges.

The Prime Minister lauded her government’s role in the past and present to help Biman in various ways.

Question is profitability
Rashed Khan Menon said that Biman has started turning away from bad days and coming out of difficult times.

Describing re-launching of domestic operation by Biman as the fulfillment of national expectation, Menon said there is question about profitability of the domestic operation.

The minister stressed the need for expansion of cargo operation in domestic sector and said that this service would benefit northern part of the country.

No more losing concern
Air Marshal (Retd) Jamal Uddin Ahmed, Chairman of the Biman’s Board of Directors, told the gathering on the occasion of re-launching of domestic operation that “Biman is no more a losing concern”.

Biman, he said has made Tk 270 crore profit and paid Tk 2,800 crore as payment for buying Boeing aircraft.

The Chairman of Biman Board, however, did not mention about re-payment of huge debt concerning aeronautical services, fuel and others.

He said that closing of domestic operation three years ago was not a comfortable decision, but had to be taken to survive a difficult period. With re-launching of domestic services, operation of Biman has now become a full.

He asked employee of Biman to work hard sincerely to keep up the “profitable trend” and at a time when fleet of Biman is being modernised at a huge cost.
Kurshed Alam Chowdhury, Secretry, Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism thanked the Prime Minister for her support in modernisation of Biman fleet.

About Biman
Kyle Haywood, Managing Director and CEO, Biman said that we are not here only to welcome the arrival of the two Dash8 aircraft in to the Biman fleet; “but we are here to also reaffirm the airline’s commitment to delivering real and substantial progress, for our stakeholders, our employees and for the nation of Bangladesh, deserving of a strong and profitable national airline”.

About the Dash8Q400 aircraft, the Biman CEO said that these are modern turbo-prop aircraft, ideal for flights of a shorter duration. These aircraft are quiet, fuel-efficient and cost effective. They provide the perfect balance of passenger comfort with performance and operational flexibility that the airline needs.

The aircraft has the flexibility to fly at both turboprob and jet-like speeds and will primarily be used on a significantly expanded flight operation on domestic and nearby regional routes.

With more flights, more often to more places, domestic travellers will enjoy greater freedom and choice of when they want to travel and where they want to travel to, the Biman CEO said.

Whether on business or leisure travel, there will be more seats available at more attractive prices, making Biman Bangla-desh Airlines, the preferred carrier of choice, he added.

Fleet going younger
Kyle said thanks to the vision of the Government, Biman continues to make consistent progress with its fleet of aircraft. In 2010, the airline’s average age of it’s fleet was a condiderable 24.7 years. This was a long way away from the image and operational needs of what a modern airline needs to look like.

With the gradual retiring of older, uneconomic aircraft, the airline fleet reached an average age at the end of last year of an encouraging 10.9 years. With the intake of these 2 modern aircraft, 2 brand new Boeing B737 narrow-body aircraft later this year and the retiring of one older wide-body aircraft, the national airline will proudly achieve an average age across its fleet of a young 7.1 years by the end of this year. Truly a fantastic improvement in a short time and a statistic that can easily rival many of the world’s leading airlines. This is something everybody can and should be proud of, the MD and CEO of Biman said.

Continuing, he said we still have some work to do. We have a certain window to take advantage of new opportunities in the next few years to establish ourselves; through flights to new cities in new countries; but these can only be fully optimised with further additions to the fleet, particularly narrow-body jets (such as the current B737 aircraft), serving regional destinations within a 3-5 hour flight range. This would allow growth and presence on an ongoing basis over the next few years as we lead up to the exciting delivery of the 4 state of the art Boeing B787-800 Dreamliner aircraft from 2019.

About customer services, the new MD and CEO of Biman said that it is critical that we, as an airline bring consistency and commitment to exceptional customer service; we cannot forget that the many strong competitor airlines around us are doing the same. The standards are constantly going up and the expectations of passengers are increasing too. This applies to both what the customer experiences, whilst on the ground at the airports with us as well as their experience in the air. In both areas, we will bring a refocus as we go through this year.

This year, Kyle said, we need to continue to accelerate the speed of how we work with our customers. More work is taking place to really define and deliver exceptional customer service. We fully recognise that we have much more work to do in this area but we cannot and will not back away from the obligation to do it.

Stressing on the need for improved customer services Kyle Haywood said, “We should be clear that we must focus on the customer and all else will follow. We need to continue to embrace and drive change and be passionate and determined about what we are doing. Each and every one of us at Biman needs to be accountable for our actions in the eyes of our stakeholders and customers”.

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