Despite having much discussion, Biman Bangladesh Airlines is unable to open Guangzhou route from January next year as it is focusing more on improvement of on-time performance this year.
A Biman official said the national flag carrier is now planning to open much-desired Guangzhou route from its summer schedule that starts from March 28 instead of its winter schedule.
Biman earlier unofficially said on many occasions that they will open Guangzhou route in January next year. Earlier, the authorities had a plan to open the route in March this year.
Biman will collect two Boeing 737 NG from Kuwait-based leasing company Alafco under a dry lease agreement to operate flights on Guangzhou route. The two aircraft will be brought for six years that are expected to reach Dhaka in December this year. But there is provision of a five-month grace period which may defer the aircraft's arrival.
Biman sources alleged that the people concerned are not visiting the maintenance hangar which is situated in China for checking the old aircraft to be leased. These two Boeing 737 aircraft were manufactured in 2010.
The national flag carrier also had plans to operate flights to Colombo and Male with the same aircraft.
"Initially, Biman has been planning to operate four weekly flights to Guangzhou with a final target of five, subject to availability. We have appointed general sales agent there and the negotiation with China civil aviation authority is going on," Shakil Meraj, general manager (Public Relations) of Biman Bangladesh Airlines, told the FE recently.
There is a provision of operating six weekly flights to Guangzhou, a Biman source said.
The Guangzhou route is of high priority to Biman considering the passenger and cargo growth. Besides, bilateral trade relations with China are quite good, he added.
Now the bilateral trade volume between China and Bangladesh is US$ 11 billion which is in favour of China. Bangladesh exports only US$ 1.0 billion worth goods to China.
At present, China Southern and China Eastern are carrying Bangladeshi passengers and cargo. China Southern and China Eastern enjoy the fifth freedom which means they carry passengers beyond China.
Experts say Biman should operate at least six flights a week to Guangzhou. According to them, flight frequency should be seven to make the business viable.
When contacted, Mr Shakil Meraj said as a national carrier, Biman has a loyal customer base. It can take advantage by providing local food and hospitality.
"We want to make the market stabilised by improving our on-time performance which is 77 per cent now. We want to make it to 90 per cent by this year. For that, we need standby aircraft," he said.
He added: "We are just leaving the idea of opening new route by January next year just to improve our service."
Biman sources said the airline has yet to prepare the flight schedule for Guangzhou. It has a plan to operate about four flights to Colombo via Male and Male via Colombo.
Biman claims to have carried 2.5 million passengers last year with a staggering 23 per cent capacity loss and earning less revenue than expected. The load factor should be at least 80 to 85 per cent. It also claims that the number of passengers had increased by about 0.8 million in three years.
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