National flag carrier Biman Bangladesh Airlines is likely to resume its flights on domestic routes by December next, eying the local aviation market which is dominated by private local airliners.
“We’re expecting to resume the domestic routes by December,” Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon told UNB.
He said the process to procure two 45-80 seated single-class turboprop aircraft for five years is at the final stage. “Currently, Biman is negotiating with one company for procuring those aircraft,” Menon said.
Responding to a query, the minister said, Biman is negotiating with an Egyptian company about the procurement price.
The national flag carrier suspended its domestic flights on four among seven routes in 2007 due to continuous losses and shortage of aircraft.
Later, in 2012, it resumed domestic flights on a limited number of routes, including Dhaka-Chittagong-Dhaka and Dhaka-Sylhet-Dhaka routes.
Biman is now operating about 30 flights a week on its domestic routes with large aircraft through its connecting flights in operation on international routes. It now operates 11 flights on Dhaka-Chittagong, 14 flights on Chittagong-Dhaka and 5-7 flights on Sylhet-Dhaka routes a week.
Besides Biman, three private carriers — United Airways, Regent Airways and Novo Air — are also operating flights on the domestic routes.
According to sources, the government has already taken steps to renovate the country’s five airports in Rajshahi, Saidpur, Cox’s Bazar, Jessore and Barisal.
Earlier, Biman received nine proposals following its invitation of proposal or offer for the procurement of two turboprop aircraft on five years’ ‘dry Lease’ or ‘lease-purchase’ basis from airlines, operators, aircraft owners, manufacturers, leasing companies having aircraft of their own or legally authorised agents of the owners of aircraft.
This was Biman’s seventh attempt to collect turboprop aircraft for resuming flights on its domestic routes along with some other regional ones. Currently, it has no small aircraft to carry passengers on domestic routes.
According to the tender floated by Biman on its website, the airliner fixed the third week of October as the tentative time for the aircraft induction.
Asked why it takes so many drives to add turboprops to the Biman fleet, a Biman high official said, “We have to start operating flights on domestic routes as the government has instructed us to do so soon. In the last six times, we got only two responsive offers.”
Attributing the abortive drives to lengthy government procedure, the Biman official said, “When we asked the bidders that we want to inspect the aircraft, they either said those had already been sold off or leased out. And we had nothing to do then.”
He also mentioned that Biman as the state-run organisation has to follow all the procedures set by the government for procurement.
In this connection, he said private airlines can do that faster as they do not need to follow all those lengthy procedures. “If we do that we’ll be charged with graft.”
The Biman official also said as the Biman has failed to procure the aircraft in its last several attempts, they have relaxed some terms and conditions.