Vol. 5 Num 533 Sat. November 26, 2005  
Front Page

Biman at height of flight disarray
Pays fat bills for stranded passengers

The national flag carrier Biman Bangladesh Airlines has earned the bad name of erratic schedule manager by operating flights to as many as 26 international and six domestic destinations with a dwindling fleet of only 12 aircraft.

Hundreds of air passengers suffer each day due to irregular flight schedules and in worst cases, many of them have to wait overnight and also for days together to get a berth in the flights. And Biman is paying fat bills for food and accommodation of the waiting passengers.

Describing the flight schedule disarray, a top Biman official said, "Biman is now clinically dead. It really requires a big push for taking off."

Official sources confirmed that more often than not Biman fails to operate on schedule its flights on various routes, particularly international routes. Every day several flights are delayed by six hours to 24 hours, forcing the financially weak Biman to pay at least $20 for each stranded passenger for food and lodging.

Citing some instances of Biman's erratic flight schedules, sources in the national flag carrier said Biman's Dhaka-Jeddah flight scheduled for 9:20 pm on Monday left Dhaka at 7:00 am on Tuesday, and another Dhaka-Jeddah flight, which was due to leave Dhaka at 5:45 pm on Tuesday, eventually left at 3:30 am on Wednesday. Dhaka-Kuwait flight scheduled for 7:45 pm on Monday was delayed for 25 hours and left Dhaka at 8:45 pm on Tuesday.

Biman's flight to Rome scheduled for at 4:15 am yesterday was rescheduled for 10:45 am yesterday.

Dhaka-Dubai-London flight scheduled for 1:30 am on Saturday last left Dhaka at 10:00am on Sunday while Dhaka-Jeddah-Paris-Rome flight, which was due to leave Dhaka at 4:15 am on Sunday, left about 17 hours behind schedule at 9: 00 pm that day.

Monday morning's (11:30 am) Dhaka-Hong Kong flight took off from Zia International Airport at 9:00pm, delayed by over nine hours.

"If you want to take a full account of our flight schedule mismatches from me, I will get tired because so many flights missed schedules by hours and by days," a Biman official said seeking anonymity.

When contacted, Biman's acting Managing Director Mahmoodur Rahman admitted the flight disarray, attributing it to shortage of aircraft crises and ageing of the DC-10s.

He however could not properly explain why Biman is operating so many domestic and international flights at the expense of taxpayers' money. With only 12 aircraft in its fleet, Biman is still showing the luxury of operating Dhaka-New York flight twice a week, incurring a loss of Tk 70 lakh a week.

For months, Biman operated Dhaka-Barisal flights with only four to six passengers in its 80-seater F-28 aircraft, and only recently cancelled the huge loss-making flight. Besides, it reduced flight frequencies on Dhaka-Syedpur route to four from seven a week.

In view of the lingering hajj flight fiasco, the national flag carrier has also stopped booking tickets for one of the two weekly flights on Dhaka-New York route from December 9. It might decide to use one of the two flights to carry hajj pilgrims to Jeddah, sources said.

Biman now has in its fleet only five wide-bodied DC10-30s having 274 seats each. But one of these is now at ZIA's hanger due to engine trouble. Besides, it has four mid-haul Airbus A-310-300s with a seat capacity of 220 each on average and four F-28s having 80 seats each.

This year, it lost one DC-10 in a mishap in Chittagong while one of its F-28s, badly damaged in a Sylhet accident is now in the process of being converted into a fancy restaurant in Dhaka.

Biman has got no 350 plus-seat wide-bodied aircraft like Boeing 777 or 747, showing its dismal condition.

Mahmoodur Rahman said the national airlines put forward a proposal to the government months ago for procuring a few wide-bodied craft with no response as yet. Finance Minister M Saifur Rahman, on several occasions, stressed bringing management discipline in the overstaffed Biman.

DC-10s are now used 12 hours a day on an average and Airbus A310-300s about 11 hours. Such high utilisation is impeding proper maintenance, resulting in frequent technical faults and flight disruption and schedule irregularity, sources pointed out.

Biman came into being on January 4, 1972 initially with a Second World War vintage Dakota and a DC-3, gifts from the air force. Its domestic service with the DC-3 began within a month of its inception. Its journey as an airline actually started with the acquisition of a Boeing 707 and four F-27 aircraft. It entered the big league with the induction of three DC10-30s in 1983.