Vol. 5 Num 628 Sun. March 05, 2006  
Front Page

Biman to reroute NY flight to halve loss
Brussels, Amsterdam stations to be closed

Failing to make the Dhaka-New York flight operation a financially viable venture for Biman, the authorities of the national flag carrier are now planning to re-route the longest of its 26 international flights.

It appears that there has been no respite in tireless experimentation with the most loss incurring flight operation, which put a dent of Tk 70 lakh a week in Biman's already poor coffer.

The latest plan on card re-routing the Dhaka-NY flight through Heathrow or Manchester instead of Brussels would at best halve the recurring losses on this route but would still remain far short of making the venture economically viable, Biman officials said.

"Soon we'll re-route the New York flight by operating it on Dhaka-Dubai-Heathrow/ Manchester-New York route and this we hope will halve the loss, if not more," acting Managing Director of Biman, Lt Col (retd) Mahmoodur Rahman told The Daily Star recently.

Such a re-routing would make the airline's expensive outstations in Brussels and Amsterdam redundant and better cater to the growing flight demand of sub-continental passengers in Great Britain.

Biman now operates an aging DC-10 twice a week on Dhaka-New York through Dubai via Brussels and incurs a loss of Tk 35 lakh on each flight. Due to an acute craft shortage, Biman, has decided to stop operating the weekly second flight from March 13 and unlikely to resume it till the airline is able to procure at least two more craft on lease.

Biman's New York flight is considered the costliest yet most prestigious of all its international flights. But the Dhaka-New York flight appears to be its Achilles' heel as the state-run airline, already struggling to buy fuel and new generation aircraft because of financial constraints, continues to absorb huge losses to keep up the prestige.

The new state minister for civil aviation and tourism, Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, who took over after the unceremonious axing of Mir Nasir in November last year, is learnt to have given the Biman management two-month time to improve upon the record of loss on its New York flight.

During previous Awami League regime, the New York flight used to operate on Dhaka-Delhi-Brussels-New York route incurring a loss of Tk 50 lakh per flight. With, Mir Nasir re-routing the flight through Dubai instead of Delhi, Biman's operational loss on this route was brought down to Tk 22 lakh but repeated rise in price of jet fuel scaled up the loss to Tk 35 lakh now.

Asked about the rationale for operating such a loss-making long-route flight, Biman's MD said, "Stopping operation of flights on a particular route that causes loss is the easiest of all solutions but it's always tough to regain slots, particularly to North American destinations. Biman's Dhaka-New York flights cater to two million ethnic clients living on the East Coast of USA and in Canada."

Mahmoodur Rahman claimed that high fuel cost at the base station Zia International Airport and poor fuel efficiency of aging DC-10s are holding Biman back from achieving financial viability on American and European routes.

In Biman's 13-strong fleet, the three-decade old DC-10s that usually operate on Dhaka-New York route have been grounded at least three times in the last six months in Brussels and New York for various mechanical faults. In late last year the US federal aviation did not allow a Biman craft depart John F Kennedy Airport without fixing 17 faults they found in the plane.

Amidst a schedule chaos, the Biman Bangladesh Airlines on Feb 19 decided to cut its international flights as an immediate solution and lease two aircraft to maintain its dwindling fleet.

Following a meeting with State Minister for Civil Aviation Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir the management of the airline floated tender for leasing two aircraft in a bid to recover from the schedule disarray caused by grounding of its three DC-10s and one airbus at a time.

While the reduction of flight frequencies on Dhaka-London and Dhaka-Jeddah routes comes into effect immediately, reduction on the Dhaka-New York route will be made effective from March 13 as passengers have already booked tickets up to then.