Vol. 5 Num 1129 Fri. August 03, 2007  
Front Page

Biman flight schedule about to crash-land
Only 4-5 aircraft operative now; desperate flight-cut not helping situation

Despite canceling flight on several routes, Biman Bangladesh Airlines is frequently failing to maintain its flight schedule as only four to five aircraft of its 11-member fleet can be kept operative a day.

Schedule collapse in Biman flights to 18 international destinations cause untold sufferings to the passengers, eventually contributing to the loss of the organisation's market share.

As an 'easy remedy' for schedule chaos, Biman cut its flight on eight international routes in last one year and recently reduced flight frequencies on five profitable routes to Riyadh, Jeddah, Kuwait, London and Rome, Biman officials said.

"When market shares of other airlines are increasing, Biman is losing its share," Abdul Mamdud Khan, General Manager (GM), flight operations (Central Control) of Biman Bangladesh Airlines Ltd told The Daily Star last night.

Biman's current market share of passengers has shrunk to approximately 32 per cent from 57 per cent in 1991, Biman's planning department sources said.

In 2005-06, Biman carried only about 14 lakh passengers out of the 30 lakh that boarded different airliners at Zia International Airport (ZIA), the sources added.

Biman now has air service agreement with 42 countries, but it can use only 18, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Biman Dr MA Momen said.

Reduction of flight on international routes has not helped better maintenance of timetable as the condition of the fleet is too poor, said a Biman official wishing anonymity.

"No flight of Biman, whether domestic or local, can fly to its destination on schedule. Six or seven hours flight delay has now become usual events for Biman," said a Biman official.

During the last few days the situation has so worsened that there have been incidents of flight delay for more than a day, even flight cancellation.

On July 7, some 200 Biman passengers faced untold sufferings remaining stranded at the ZIA as the flight scheduled to carry them was delayed for 39 hours due to technical glitches and no alternative flight could be arranged.

On July 9, another Biman flight, this time to London, was delayed for about a day at ZIA due to technical glitches in the aircraft.

Recently Biman cut three weekly flights each to Riyadh, Jeddah and Kuwait and one each to London and Rome.

"We have demand in the above routes but we failed to meet it due to aircraft shortage," Abdul Mamdud Khan told The Daily Star.

During the last one year Biman suspended its flights to Yangon, Mumbai, Tokyo, Frankfurt, Orly (Paris), Brussels, Manchester and New York routes.

Due to shortage of aircraft, Biman has to use its aircraft without required recess, which poses risk to the aircraft as well as passengers, said a Biman official.

On average Biman uses its age-old aircraft 15 to16 hours a day, whereas it should not be used more than 10-11 hours per day, he said.

Biman presently owns three types of aircraft -- four DC10-30s, four F-28s, and three A310-300s. Production of DC10-30s and F-28s has been discontinued because of their lack of viability in business.

Of the 11 aircraft of the Biman fleet, only four or five can operate a day while the rest are grounded due to technical malfunctions.

At present Biman is running flight to Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore, Kolkata, Kathmandu, New Delhi, Karachi, Dubai, Muscat, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Riyadh, Dammam, Jeddah, Rome, London and Doha.

Meanwhile, the Biman aircraft that had been stuck at Heathrow International Airport for about 48 hours is likely to fly for Dhaka at 2:am (Bangladesh standard time).

The London-Dubai-Dhaka flight was scheduled to fly for Dhaka at 2:00am (Bangladesh standard time) on Tuesday, Biman sources said.

But due to hydraulic failure, the aircraft could not fly, sources said, adding that unavailability of departure slot caused more delay to the flight.

The aircraft is ready to fly after repairing for its technical glitches, a Biman official said.

The aircraft carrying 40 passengers is supposed to arrive at the Zia International Airport at 3:00pm today, said Biman sources.