Biman Bangladesh Airlines, the national flag carrier, has failed to resume flights on the much-awaited Dhaka-New York route, as it could not fix its plane-hire problems.
Earlier this year, then Biman Bangladesh Airlines managing director Kevin Steele had announced the flights would resume with hired planes from June after a lapse of nearly 18 years.
But the Biman authorities say there is little possibility of that happening yet, as plane-lease glitches had not been ironed out.
A country planning flights to the US must have a Category-1 rating from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Security is usually their top priority. The FAA banned Biman in 1996, as its rating had dropped to Category-2.
Biman’s acting Managing Director Capt Mosaddique Ahmed said they had been trying to restore the Dhaka-NY route for a long time.
Despite having fit aircraft, Biman is unable to fly the route as it remains stuck in Category-2.
As per an agreement with the US on Aug 17 last year, the country slapped a ban on Bangladeshi aircraft entering its sky until the FAA security observation ended.
Until then, Biman was given the option to resume its NY flights with planes leased in a “proper” way from any eligible carrier.
There are two types of leasing systems in aviation business. ‘Dry lease’ is usually taken for long term, the maintenance are done by the hirer.
On the other hand, ‘wet lease’ is short term-and with maintenance being the sender’s responsibility.
Biman hired two Boeing 777 aircraft from Egypt on ‘dry lease’ without proper review and offered tickets for the NY route.
However, the NY flights could not take off as the US did not approve the ‘dry lease’ system.
Biman had failed to convert its lease system to the US-approved ‘wet lease’ system.
Former Biman board member and aviation expert Kazi Wahedul Alam berated the move.
He said the flag carrier would have to incur huge losses in future due to what he described as “non-professional” moves.
“No-one, with a minimal knowledge of the aviation business, could take such a decision,” he told bdnews24.com.
According to acting MD Ahmed, the only option left was to hire aircraft from an approved agency on the ‘wet lease’ system.
He said they were receiving response over their request for proposal to that end and were evaluating the proposals.
Aviation expert Alam pitched for firing those who decided on the lease.
The two leased Boeing 777 are being operated on short routes. As per rule, planes on dry lease must be returned to their original condition while handing them back.
“Heavy repairing before returning them will cost several million dollars.
“Biman should return these planes right away. It may have to pay some extra amount for it, but [doing this] will save it from big losses,” Alam said.