Biman closes wings on beach city Cox’s Bazar from July
Biman Bangladesh Airlines is likely to shut its operation down on Dhaka-Cox’s Bazar-Dhaka route from July 1, mainly due to shortage of aircraft.
The narrow bodied aircraft---mostly F-28s now operating on the route--- are likely to be phased out from the Biman fleet soon. The Biman authorities have recently decided to phase out all its age old aircraft – DC-10-30s and Fokker 28s -- from its fleet. The issue was discussed at Biman’s board meeting recently which decided to suspend the operation until some suitable aircraft are found as replacements for the route. But officials fear that operations on the route could be suspended for much longer time as the length of the Cox’s Bazar runway is too small to handle any new generation wide-bodied aircraft. “As Biman is going to modernise its ageing fleet with new generation wide-bodied aircraft, so it is not possible to resume service on the route unless facilities at the airport, including the runway, is upgraded,” said an official of Biman Bangladesh, requesting anonymity. The civil aviation official also confirmed that the government is going to turn the Cox's Bazar airport into an international category to boost tourism facilities in the country. Civil Aviation Minister Mohammad Faruk Khan recently held a meeting in Cox’s Bazar where the proposed structure of the airport was presented.
With closing down the Dhaka-Cox’s Bazar-Dhaka route, Biman’s domestic operations will come down to almost one fourth than what it had in 1990s. Earlier, Biman operated on eight domestic routes on Chittagong, Sylhet, Jessore, Rajshahi, Cox’s Bazar, Syedpur and Ishwardi. Presently, Biman operates two flights a week on Dhaka-Cox’s Bazar-Dhaka route. The Dhaka-Jessore-Dhaka route was closed in 2007 on the ground of economic loss. Dhaka-Rajshahi-Dhaka and Dhaka-Syedpur-Dhaka route was closed in 2006.
The state run Biman now owns three 84 seater twin engine jet airliners F-28 and four DC-10. Among the old agers, the Fokker-28s are mostly operated on domestic and regional routes while the 300 seater DC-10s are operated on Middle east routes.
Because of high fuel consumption and frequent technical failure due to outdated aircraft, those have become a burden on the authorities. “The national flag carrier is incurring some Tk 10 crore in losses annually on domestic routes,” added the official.
Of the F-28s, one has been grounded almost permanently and the two others are operating on Dhaka-Chittagong, Sylhet, Cox’s Bazar, Kolkata and Katmandu routes.
Among the DC-10s, one has been grounded for about two years and another is sitting-duck in the hangar for major overhauling. The ageing fleet has made it difficult for Biman to maintain its flight schedules, as the airline suffers from frequent mechanical problems, leading to flight delays and even cancellations. A number of aircraft have remained grounded owing to lack of spare parts as they are no longer manufactured and used by any major airlines.
Currently, GMG Airlines, United Airways and Regent Airways are operating domestic flights along with Biman. The private airlines are now operating domestic flights connecting Dhaka with Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar, Sylhet and Jessore.