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Biman yet to fulfill people’s expectations Lack of congenial environment for aviation industry

Kamrun Nahar

Kamrun Nahar, Staff Reporter, The Financial Express : Globally the growth of the aviation industry is same as that of the economic growth of any country.
But in Bangladesh’s case, the trend is reverse as the growth of the aviation industry is more than double the country’s economic growth. Bangladesh’s economy grew an average of 6.2% year-on-year since 2007. But Bangladesh’s aviation sector has been growing at a rate of 14-15% annually.
Foreign carriers capture much of the growth in air traffic to and from Bangladesh. In reality Bangladesh aviation industry has not got the expected and conducive environment for the flourishing of the Airlines industry here.
In this journey, national flag carrier Biman Bangladesh Airlines has a great contribution having 23% share in the market. It has s target to lift its share upto 30% by next one decade.
At present, Biman is overshadowed with indiscipline, corruption, harassment and so many bad things.
It is also famous as a loosing concern of the government as in the case for most of the state-owned corporation and companies. It now operates with 12 aircrafts of its six are of its own. Biman has taken number of steps to create a good image. Still it faces criticism from many quarters including prime minister, civil aviation minister, parliamentary standing committee and passengers. But being the national flag carrier, we expect that Biman must develop a positive image to serve the passengers of all strata of society very soon.
Biman has a major fleet expansion plan by 2028. Although Biman holds the major share of the aviation sector in the country, it could not meet customer’s demand or earn customer satisfaction with its service quality and operation schedule. It has a plan to increase its market share within next 10 years, provided it can curb corruption, hold the board of directors and other high officials accountable. The major share of the passengers is constituted by the unskilled expatriate workers who travel to Middle East. The other major share is of course the non-resident Bangladeshis living in London. Despite all the bad issues about Biman, it has been trying to make profit for over the last three years. It made profit 47 Crore Taka in 2016-17, Profit 276 Crore Taka in 2015-16, 324 Crore Taka 2014-15. At present, Biman is the largest PLC of Bangladesh with an authorized capital of 15,000 crore Taka.
Biman has a glorious past which is touchy at the same time. Biman was formed under the Presidential Order (No 2) in January 4, 1972 from the then PIA without any aircraft or ancillary facilities. All it had was 2500 employees including 19 pilots from the then PIA. Initially it was named as ‘Air Bangla International’ which was changed in 1977 and named as ‘Bangladesh Biman Corporation’. Biman was incorporated as a public limited company (PLC) in 2007.
India then presented a DC-3 aircraft to Biman. On 07 March 1972, Biman started its domestic flight with a DC-3 aircraft which was used in the World War II. On 4th March, 1972 the first flight of Biman’s international operation landed in Dhaka from London with 179 passengers on board with a chartered British Caledonian aircraft.
While talking about flourishing of the potential aviation industry, Bangladesh has so far failed to build capacity to cater to the needs of the ever growing aviation sector, specially in infrastructure and manpower. In 2016-17 fiscal, Biman handled 23 lac 51 thousand passengers for whom 30,000 meals were prepared. It carried 33,542 Metric ton cargo last fiscal. It handles cargo of 120 flights everyday. Bangladesh could not develop the capacity to cater to the needs created due to the growth taken place over the last five years.
In terms of infrastructure, Biman operates in the same old three international airports and other domestic airports.
Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA), established in 28 December of 1979, was never upgraded. As many as 372 airlines take off and land in this airport. The plan of extension of HSIA has been facing an inordinate delay. HSIA handles 70 lac passengers and one and half crore luggage. It has eight baggage belts which are 40 years old. Of these eight belts, only six are functional. HSIA has lost its capacity in 2018. The CAAB should speed up its project implementation to meet the deadline and reduce project cost. It also should reduce all kinds of charges for the local airlines including Biman. Bnagladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC) should reduce its price of Jet fuel to help boost the aviation sector.

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