Four private airlines take off in Bangladesh

February 20th, 2008 - 3:49 pm ICT by admin  


Dhaka, Feb 20 (IANS) Four new private airlines have rushed in to meet the fast-growing demand for air travel, seizing the initiative from Bangladesh Biman International, which has remained sluggish after its belated privatisation last year. This is aviation boom time in Bangladesh with the launch of three private airlines in the last eight months and another set to start commercial flights next month.

Private airline operators say the industry is growing by 7.5-8 percent every year, with a market size of passengers alone swelling to around 35 billion takas ($6 million).

“The aviation industry witnessed a 7.6 percent growth globally last year and it was also the same in Bangladesh,” said Tasbirul Ahmed Choudhury, chairman and managing director of United Airways (BD) Ltd., which started operation in July 2007.

An ailing Biman, with its losses piled up and short of funds to refurbish its fleet, could not meet the passenger traffic last year, mostly of Bangladeshis working abroad, forcing the government to bring in foreign airlines to transport an estimated 130,000 passengers, who were on the verge of losing their jobs because of the delays.

Around four million passengers fly from Zia International Airport (ZIA) to different foreign destinations every year, while about 180,000 to 240,000 more aspiring passengers cannot go to the Middle East due mainly due to lack of seats, Wahidur Rahman of Anmole told The Daily Star newspaper.

Apart from United Airways, Best Air made its debut in mid-January and Aviana Airways, with the brand name Royal Bengal, in late January, both on domestic routes so far.

Earlier, GMG Airlines was the only private airline operating on domestic routes along with national flag carrier Biman Bangladesh Airlines Ltd.

Anmole Albab Airlines Ltd, another private airline, under the brand name of A2 Air is set to operate international passenger flights from Bangladesh in March this year.

Initially, it will operate flights to the Middle East and Far Eastern countries.

“We have already completed all the procedures to collect two Boeing-747 aircraft to operate flights on international routes,” said Wahidur Rahman Rana, chief financial officer of Anmole Albab Airlines.

Non-resident Bangladeshis’ contribution to the industry is significant as they, mostly from Britain and the US, have launched two of the four private airlines.

The private airlines are also planning to add more aircraft to their fleet so that flights can be expanded to international destinations.

United Airways has already purchased another Dash-8-100 and signed a letter of intent with a Singapore-based company to lease an Airbus A300 or A310. The airline is also negotiating to lease a Boeing 747 or 300.

Best Air is going to add another Boeing 737 to its fleet by March this year.

The new private airlines are operating domestic flights on Dhaka to Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar, Sylhet and Jessore routes so far.

Besides, GMG is operating international flights from Dhaka to Kolkata, New Delhi, Kathmandu, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Dubai.

The other private airlines are also planning to launch international flights.

“It’ll be very difficult to survive by operating only on domestic routes; it’s essential to go for international routes,” said Tasbir of United Airways, founded by non-resident Bangladeshis mostly from Britain.

He also said they are now waiting for the government nod to operate international flights on Dhaka-Dubai-London, Dhaka-Kuala Lumpur, Dhaka-Dubai, Chittagong-Dubai, Dhaka-Kolkata, and Dhaka-Kathmandu routes.

Like United, Best Air is also planning to launch international flights.

“We’ll start our international flights on the Dhaka-Bangkok route in March this year and on Dhaka to Kuala Lumpur, Kolkata, Chennai and Dubai routes within the next six months,” said Mohsin Rana, acting manager (marketing and sales) of Best Air.

The private operators said seat utilisation of their aircraft ranges from 30 percent to 60 percent.

The ever-growing demand for air transport on international routes prompted them to go for international flights, they added.

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