|Biman Bangladesh Airlines
বিমান বাংলাদেশ এয়ারলাইনস
|Hubs||Zia International Airport|
|Secondary hubs||Shah Amanat International Airport, Osmani International Airport|
|Frequent flyer program||Frequent Flyer Programme|
|Subsidiaries||Biman Flight Catering Centre
Biman Poultry Complex
Biman Airlines Training Center
|Fleet size||11 (plus 15 orders and 10 options/rights)|
|Company slogan||Your home in the air|
|Key people||Dr. Abdul Momen (CEO & MD), Mahbub Jamil (Chairman)|
Biman Bangladesh Airlines (Bangla:বিমান বাংলাদেশ এয়ারলাইনস) designates the National Flag Carrier of Bangladesh, with its main hub at Zia International Airport in Dhaka. It also operates flights from Shah Amanat International Airport in Chittagong and earns significant revenue from the connecting service to Osmani International Airport in Sylhet. Currently it provides passenger and cargo service in different international routes in Asia and Europe along with major domestic routes. It has Air Service Agreements with 42 countries; but maintains flights to only 18 at present.
Biman Bangladesh Airlines has a history that mirrors the formation of Bangladesh. At first established with the partition of Bengal and India in 1947, becoming the eastern part of Pakistan, Bangladesh gained independence from Pakistan in 1971. Biman Bangladesh Airlines formed from former employees of Pakistan International Airlines, beginning as a government-run airline. Bangladesh suffered from famines, natural disasters, widespread poverty, as well as political corruption and military coups during the first two decades of its history. The establishment of democracy in Bangladesh in 1991 eventually translated into improvements for Biman Airlines as well. The nation has been experiencing increased political stability and economic progress since 1991. Until 1996, Biman had enjoyed a near monopoly in Bangladesh. In 1996, Bangladesh opened the country to other carriers and domestic competition. Biman's poor management and graft became an overriding concern, leading to a trimming of personnel and restructuring of the company. In 2007, the Bangladesh government established Biman as a public limited company, the largest in Bangladesh. The future of Biman Bangladesh Airlines brightened with that move.
Biman Bangladesh Airlines, came into existence on January 4, 1972 as Bangladesh's national airline under the Bangladesh Biman Ordinance (Presidential Order No. 126). 2,500 former employees, including ten Boeing 707 commanders and seven other pilots of Pakistan International Airlines, who submitted a proposal to the government on 31 December 1971 following the independence of Bangladesh, took the initiative to launch the national flag carrier. Initially called Air Bangladesh International, the airline soon became Biman Bangladesh Airlines.
Biman, a Bengali word meaning airplane, originates from the Sanskrit word vimana, a name given to a flying machine mentioned in ancient Vedic literature. The logo, painted on the tail, has a stylized white stork (Balaka in Bengali) inside a red circle. The initial livery had been a dark blue line extending across the aircraft along the windows and covering the tail section. Replaced in the 1980s by dark green and red lines, matching the colors of the Bangladesh flag, the current logo has remained in place for over two decades. The Balaka has also given its name to the Biman headquarters, the Balaka Bhaban (Balaka Building), and a landmark sculpture in Dhaka depicting storks adorns the front of Biman's former headquarters.
Created in February 1972 with some old vintage aircrafts, Biman enjoyed an internal monopoly in Bangladesh aviation industry until 1996. During next three decades, the airlines expanded its fleet and horizon (at it’s peak Biman operated service to 29 international destinations with New York—JFK in the west and Tokyo—Narita in the east) but suffered heavily due to mass corruption and frequent mishaps. An aging fleet constituted the major reason behind the airline's huge financial loss and bad reputation for poor service and regular flight cancellations and delays. The aviation authority of the US and EU countries banned some of its long-haul air crafts for safety violations. Annual Hajj flights, transporting non-resident Bangladesh workers/migrants as well as Biman's subsidiaries, form an important part of the carrier's business. Biman has a two-star ranking out of five by Skytrax, a United Kingdom based consultancy. Currently the carrier faces stiff competition from a number of local private airlines as well as some international carriers. They have been targeting Bangladesh's market which has been experiencing an eight percent growth per annum due to large number of non-resident Bangladeshi travelers.
After becoming a public limited company, Biman has trimmed the number of staff and turned its attention to modernizing the fleet. Biman struck a deal with United States aircraft manufacturer Boeing for procurement of ten new generation air crafts along with option to purchase ten more. The carrier has been in negotiations to lease aircraft for destinations in Asia, Europe, and North America.
On February 4, 1972, Biman started its domestic service on the Dhaka–Chittagong, Dhaka–Jessore and Dhaka–Sylhet routes with a World War II vintage Douglas Dakota and Douglas DC-3, both gifts from the Bangladesh Air Force. On February 10, 1972, Biman experienced its first accident when the Douglas DC-3 crashed near Dhaka during a flight test, killing all five crew members. The airline immediately leased a Douglas DC-6 from Troll Air, a Norwegian airline, to keep the domestic service running. On March 4, 1972, Biman started its international operations with a once-a-week flight to London using a Boeing 707 chartered from British Caledonian. A Fokker F27 from Indiasupplemented the short haul fleet on 3 March 1972, inaugurating a daily flight between Kolkata (Calcutta) and Dhaka on April 28, 1972. Three additional Fokker F27s joined the fleet during March and September of the same year bringing the number of Fokker F27 aircraft to four. In the first year of operation, Biman operated 1,079 flights carrying just over 380,000 passengers.
Four additional Fokker F27s, purchased from Australia and the Netherlands, joined the fleet in 1973 enabling Biman to double the frequency of the Kolkata flight to a twice daily service. A Boeing 707 joined the fleet in September and the flight to London became twice weekly, while a Chittagong-Kolkata flight also began operating at the same time. In 1974 operations extended to Kathmandu (February), Bangkok (November) and Dubai (December). In 1976, Biman sold two of its Fokker F27s and bought another Boeing 707 to extend international services to Abu Dhabi, Karachi and Mumbai. Biman added Singapore to its list of international destinations, after purchasing a third Boeing 707 in February 1977. Jeddah, Doha and Amsterdam followed the next year which also saw the purchase of its fourth Boeing 707, from the United States. In 1977, Biman became a public sector corporation governed by a board of directors appointed by the government. The airline broke-even for the first time in 1977–1978, and made a profit the following year. International destinations expanded to include Kuala Lampur, Athens, Muscat, and Tripoli in 1979, followed by Yangon, Tokyo, and Dhahran in 1980.
In 1983, three Douglas DC-10s joined the fleet and the airline started to phase out the Boeing 707s. The network expanded further to include Baghdad (1983), Paris (1984) and Bahrain (1986). On August 4, 1984, Biman experienced its worst accident when a Fokker F27 flying in from Chittagong crashed near Dhaka, killing all 49 on board including Captain Kaniz Fatema Roksana, the airline's first female pilot. The purchase of two new Airbus A310s in 1996 supplemented the long haul fleet followed by the addition of two more in 2000, from Singapore Airlines and Air Jamaica, and another in 2003.
In the 2005–2006 fiscal year, Biman carried 1.15 million passengers, a growth of 70 percent from the previous decade's average. With the rise of private domestic carriers in Bangladesh, Biman's market share for domestic passengers dropped by 35 percent over the previous ten years' average, with only 162,000 passengers traveling on Biman in the domestic sector in the 2005–2006 fiscal year. During the same period, Biman reported its biggest annual loss of over US$120 million (Tk8.3 billion), with a US$100 million (Tk6.9 billion) loss reported the following year. Biman also fell behind millions of dollars in payments to its fuel supplier, the Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation.
The Bangladesh government wholly owned the airline through the Bangladesh Biman Corporation since its inception. In 1977, Biman converted into a public sector corporation which afforded Biman limited autonomy, governed by a board of directors appointed by the government. The authorized share capital increased to Tk2 billion in 1987, and Biman transformed into a public limited company, the largest in Bangladesh, in 2007.
During the late 1980s, Hossain Mohammad Ershad, President of Bangladesh served as president of Biman. After an early period of expansion and growth, Biman entered an era of nose-diving profits and slow growth, exacerbated by incompetent and corrupt management; with padding of purchases, falsified repair bills and unprofitable routes kept in operation for political reasons. Research conducted in 1996 found that Biman had 5,253 non-flying personnel, 30 percent more than Singapore Airlines which had almost a ten-times larger fleet. The report described Biman as "poorly managed, overstaffed, under capitalized, and subject to excessive political interference in its day-to-day management."
In the 1992–1993 fiscal year, accounts under the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism revealed Tk22 million in unpaid taxes. The audit carried out in 1999, also showed that travel agents owed Tk2.2 million Biman from the proceeds of ticket sales, most likely with the collusion of Biman officials. Additionally, Tk2.4 million had been overpaid as incentive commission to the sales agents in violation of Biman policies. In 2007, the caretaker government launched an anti-corruption drive which saw the arrest of Shamim Iskander, the brother of ex-prime minister Begum Khaleda Zia and a former Biman flight engineer, on multiple corruption charges. That followed shortly the forced retirement of 30 other employees and officials, some close aides of Iskander.
Due to the growing losses, which began in the late 1990s, the government offered 40 percent of Biman to foreign airlines in 2004, hoping a buyer would take over the management of the carrier. The proposal demanded that many decision-making rights remain with the Bangladesh government, and outside airlines ignored the offer. A similar initiative in 1998 cost Biman US$1.6 million in consultancy fees with no positive results.
In May 2007, the caretaker government approved plans to turn Biman into a Public Limited Company with shareholdings split between seven public sector organizations. As a part of the restructuring, the government put in place a Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) to reduce the man-equipment ratio (MER) of 367:1 (ratio of manpower to aircraft). The industry average at the time was 200:1, with other Asian airlines operating with MERs of around 150:1. The VRS provided compensation based on length of service, at a cost to the government of over US$40 million. While Biman management had expected to reduce its workforce by 1,600 personnel, they received 2,162 applications for VRS, many from employees who anticipated dismissal with little or no severance if the quota fell short. Biman accepted 1,877 applications and affirmed that key personnel would remain the organization.
On July 23, 2007, Biman Bangladesh Airlines Ltd became the largest Public Limited Company in Bangladesh.  The government remains the sole shareholder of the 1.5 billion shares but intends to offer 49 percent to the private sector while retaining majority ownership. The previous Managing Director, Dr. Abdul Momen, received appointed as CEO as well as MD in the new organization. The six board of directors have been appointed from the ministries of energy, commerce, finance, civil aviation, foreign affairs and the cabinet division with the cabinet secretary taking on the role as Chairman. The six secretaries and a joint secretary to the civil aviation ministry have been made the seven shareholders of the new PLC.
Following the privatization, ex-Biman employees who left the organization via the VRS setup a competing airline. Names proposed for the airline included Air Bangla International, Biman Employees Airlines and Balaka. The previous managing directors of Biman, along with the former president of the Bangladesh Airline Pilots' Association, joined.
Biman also operates a cargo service using the cargo holds of its passenger aircraft to ship freight to international destinations. It has established a Cargo Village at Zia International Airport, the cargo packaged and labeled before being loaded onto its aircraft.
While the air cargo industry in Bangladesh grew by 16.5 percent in the fiscal year 2003–2004, Biman's cargo operations remained stagnant when private operators such as Bismillah Airlines, Best Aviation and Air Bangladesh produced a 108 percent growth from the previous year. The private operators increased their share of the cargo market by 10.6 percent and were responsible for handling 24 percent of the total 99,000 tons of cargo at the expense of both Biman and foreign airlines which saw a reduction in their shares by 4.6 percent and 6 percent respectively. Foreign airlines handled 47 percent of the total cargo with Biman taking on the remaining 29 percent.
As with its passenger service and management, corruption has also been rife at Biman Cargo. An investigation in 2004 uncovered irregularities in a number of Biman's Middle East operations which deprived the government of millions of dollars in revenue. Biman officials in Dubai had "extending special privileges" to the main freight handler in exchange for bribes. Smuggling of foreign currency and gold bars has taken place at the Biman Cargo Village by Biman and Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) employees. A number of arrests have been made but the perpetrators evade punishment through lack of evidence and pressure from the CAAB union.
Biman operates flights to several destinations in the Middle East, some destinations in South and South East Asia and only two destinations in Europe—Rome and London. From 1993 to 2006, Biman operated flights to John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York from Dhaka via Brussels.
Thousands of Bangladesh's predominantly Muslim population undertake the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Makkah for the Hajj. Biman has been the sole Bangladeshi airline permitted by the government to provide flights for pilgrims. Every year, high ranking government officials including, at times, the Prime Minister inaugurate the commencement of those flights. In 2002, the government opened the service to private operator Air Bangladesh. The initial private flights had been plagued with delays, with both outgoing and return flights postponed for as long as nine days, which caused the Bangladesh government to return the Hajj flights monopoly to Biman.
Biman has a long list of incidents that have brought the airline into close scrutiny by the international governments. Foremost among them include:
February 10, 1972: The first accident occurred less than a month after starting operations. All five crew members died when the Douglas DC-3 crashed near Dhaka during a test flight.
August 4, 1984: A flight from the port city of Chittagong (CGP-DAC) crashed near Dhaka, killing all 49 people on board. Captain Kaniz Fatema Roksana, the airline's first female pilot, made two attempts to land in reduced visibility but could not find the runway. On the third attempt the Fokker F-27 crashed in swamps 1,640 feet (500 m) short of the runway.
December 22, 1997: Flight BG609 (DAC-ZYL) made a belly landing on paddy fields three km short of Osmani International Airport in heavy fog. Seventeen of the 89 people on board were injured. The Fokker F28 was written off.
July 1, 2005: Flight BG048 (DXB-CGP-DAC) skidded off runway 23 onto the grass at Shah Amanat International Airport while landing during heavy rain. The right-hand undercarriage of the Douglas DC-10-30 caught fire. Ten passengers were injured while exiting the aircraft. An inquiry found no faults with the aircraft and put the blame for the accident on the inefficiency of the pilot, whose employment was later terminated.
All links retrieved February 4, 2013.
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