Published: Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Unlike Biman

Refreshing change clearly noticeable with new boss at the helm

Kevin John Steele

Kevin John Steele

If you have flown Biman of late, you are likely to notice a few things. Your flight, most probably, had departed on time. The on-flight service was better. And you might have a surprise welcome on arrival at Dhaka by the top Biman man.
Biman, in the last one month, seems to be trying to fly straight from the rudderless flight that had pushed the national airlines in the red.
It has got a new managing director, the first foreign chief executive Kevin John Steele, who has been trying all the tricks to change Biman.
First, Kevin is trying to make planes take off on time. The success is quite high, considering he has been in charge for less than a month.
In one week in April, 2012, on-time flight departure was only 27 percent. In the last week beginning April 14, 41 percent flights departed on time.
“This is a bit of an improvement, but this is still nothing like acceptable, nothing like major airlines, so I want to get this over 80 percent before the end of this year,” Kevin says. “One big thing is the average delay has dropped a lot more. Last year, with no standby aircraft, we had some delays of over 12 hours.”
Kevin has gone for simple solutions to bring about this improvement. He has kept the old DC-10 aircraft standby. In case any aircraft develops technical glitch, the DC-10 rushes to lift passengers.
A lot of delays occur because of passenger handling at the immigration and check-in.
So, Biman has worked back a schedule from the time departure and is sticking to it. It is arranging quicker passing of passengers on priority basis.
Biman has given measurable targets to all staff, which includes punctuality.
“This has improved services but it is not good enough. I want British Airways results,” says Kevin, who once served as General Manager of British Airways.
Kevin’s biggest challenge and Biman’s, however, is bringing the airlines from the red to the black. Last year, it suffered a loss of $75 million.
Kevin has identified about 20 steps, some of them quite simple, to save cost.
For example, one step is to cut the number of passengers on waiting list.
Biman used to allow up to 50 passengers on waiting list. But to book each ticket, the airlines has to pay $7 to a company for using its “global distribution system” (GDS).
What Kevin did is cutting the waiting list from 50 to 15 passengers. Thus Biman can save $245 on GDS charge every flight. For the whole year, it means saving $1.5 million a year.
Another simple step is to save on fuel.
In winter, weather over Dhaka and Chittagong often remains foggy. This is why each flight has to carry extra fuel so that it could divert to Yangon in case of poor visibility.
For this every flight had to carry excess fuel weighing 1,000kg. This extra fuel costs money. Moreover, to carry this 1,000kg extra load, each flight has to burn about 200kg equivalent of fuel.
So Kevin has equipped the Sylhet airport with fuel trucks so that aircraft can land in Sylhet instead of Yangon in case of foggy weather.
This would save another $2 million a year.
Kevin has also planned a revenue management system. This would help give priority to passengers on priority routes.
For example, fare from Kuala Lumpur to Jeddah is $900 while from Dhaka to Jeddah it is $850. So flying passengers from Kuala Lumpur to Jeddah is not profitable.
When the new revenue management system will be in place, Dhaka-Jeddah passengers will get priority. Biman can save $20 million from this.
Fuel efficient aircraft is a key to cutting cost. Biman will float tenders for two Boeing 777s in August to take a lease on them for five years.
Kevin said Biman has Boeing 777s, 737-800s and Airbus A310s but the Airbus is fuel inefficient and he would phase them out in two years.
“We have eight aircraft now. I am looking at 16 in two years,” Kevin adds.
Biman will also introduce e-customers’ feedback and rating of services. Staff who can surpass their targets will get extra bonuses.
“I am looking at Biman not from domestic perspective but from international viewpoint,” Kevin says. “In one year, Biman will do 95 percent of what British Airways or Etihad has been doing.”
The end point — “Biman is looking at $70 million in savings and a comeback to black.

  • sl_jay1946

    Foreign Airlines are doing brisk business for the past 30 years or more increasing their Flights from say Dubai 01 Flight a day to 3 Flights. Lets hope Kevin can tactfully sustain in this dog eat dog world and save Biman from the Vultures. Kevin will require lots of Luck, best of luck Kevin.

  • Salman Muhsin

    We appreciate & acknowledge Mr. Kevin John Steele’s sincere efforts & determination, we honestly hope & pray that Mr. Steele succeeds in his endeavors. Good Luck !

  • Fazlul Bari

    I wonder, how could you survive in a chaotic org .

  • Mubir

    We wish you all the best Mr. Kevin! great initiatives indeed. We want to see our own airline among the top names. In fact, a thanks should be given to the Biman board of directors to employ a foreign CEO at last.

  • MH Khan

    Biman should eliminate the ticket reconfirmation
    requirement. This is where the Biman employees harass customers and make money.

  • Desh Bondhu

    So we need foreigners to make us better !! We could not do it in years. Best wishes for Kevin. Hope he gets enough support to fulfill his mission and make us better. Cheers for him.

  • MH Khan

    Check-in counter staffs deny boarding just for nothing and demand money for issuance of boarding card.

  • Dev Saha

    Perform or perish! I think Bangladeshis already started to love new CEO’s managing attitude. More power to this man!

  • Shafiqur Rahman

    Kevin Steele is exactly what Biman needed many years ago. He’s ideas and plans are based on common sense as well as the cost savings plans he is implementing. Now couldn’t we have gotten a Bangladeshi to do this from the start? We all know the reason why? But let’s not fret over this. Mr. Steele will bring Biman into a new light for customers as well as IATA. Great job Mr. Steele!!

  • nazmul Haq

    Good luck to this new CEO. He will have to grapple with excellent business model of BIMAN. One of the excellent feature of BIMAN business model is that it creates lots of jobs. The BIMAN employs about 471 employees per air craft and two of the eleven aircraft has about 84 seats. Good luck Mr. CEO and enlighten yourself with Bangladeshi unique business model .

  • Shahroz

    I hope and earnestly pray that he can turn it around. What he seems to be doing looks quite good.


    This is the first time I see a positive news about Biman. Thanks to Daily Star.