Vol. 4 Num 104 Mon. September 08, 2003  

Biman flight catering keeps courting profits

Beleaguered national airline's flight catering centre emerged as its most profit-making wing thanks to regular order from five foreign airlines operating in Bangladesh.

Biman Flight Catering Centre (BFCC) earned Tk 5 crore profit in fiscal year 2002-2003, sources in the national flag carrier said.

Apart from supplying food regularly to Biman Bangladesh Airlines, British Airways, Qatar Airways, Dragon Air, Uzbekistan Airways and Iran Air, the BFCC gets casual order from all 18 international airlines operating in Bangladesh.

The United Nations charted flights also order meals from the BFCC.

On average, the five foreign airlines take 25,000 meals and Biman 1.70 lakh meals a month from the catering centre. The other international airlines also place unscheduled orders for 1,500 meals a month, sources said.

Started its operation in October 28, 1989 as a subsidiary of Biman, the only in-flight food producer and supplier in Bangladesh saw first profit in 1993.

In fiscal year 2002-03, the BFCC's total earning was Tk 15 crore of which Tk 5 crore was profit. The profit made in 2001-02 was Tk 3 crore.

However, Biman continues incurring losses in its flight operations, specially on international routes.

The cost of an economy class meal ranges from $8 to 10 and a business class meal about $20. Manned with 550 skilled people, the catering centre has a daily capacity of producing 6,000-7,000 meals.

"The chefs and their helpers are imparted overseas training and asked to maintain the highest hygienic standard to maintain reputation," a high official of BFCC told The Daily Star yesterday.

For its quality food, BFCC earned "Excellent Quality" award from British Airways recently, he said.

Although the BFCC was established to produce and supply food for Biman, it started getting regular orders from international airlines from October last year, he added.

It also supplies water, soft and hard drinks to Biman and other international airlines. Biman serves BFCC foods in all two-way 26 international flights excluding the longest routes -- Dhaka-New York and Dhaka-Brussels, the official said.

BFCC consumes 90 per cent of eggs and boneless chicken produced in Biman Poultry Farm which is another profit-making wing of Biman, he said.

Besides meals, BFCC also supplies medical items, blankets, reading materials, children's games and gifts to passengers during flights. It also supplies cutlery, linen, baby towel, crockery, pillows and toiletries, he mentioned.

Everyday the ingredients and prepared foods undergo random testing by BFCC microbiologists to meet hygienic requirements of international airline clients, he said.

As the number of international airlines operating to Dhaka keeps growing, the Biman management is planning to increase capacity of the catering centre and introducing electronic food checking, he said.

A worker seals a box containing foods for a flight at the Biman Flight Catering Centre (BFCC) at Kurmitola in Dhaka. The catering centre has emerged as the airline's most profit-making wing. Photo: BFCC