Biman's flight delay: It must remain competitive

EditorialProthom Alo illustration

There was a funny joke going on about Bangladeshi Train’s timetable and it goes like this, “What time the 9:00am train will start?” It doesn’t seem the train service have completely come out of that situation yet. But in recent times the same applies for Biman Bangladesh Airlines as well.

According to Prorthom Alo report published on 10 July, more than 30 per cent of Biman’s flights depart much later than its schedule. A report prepared using one year’s flight data of Biman, starting from last year’s July to this year’s June showed that the delay rate is even higher in case of international flights. In some months, the international flights were delayed by 50 to 60 per cent also.

How punctual an airline is, can be understood from the respective airline’s On-Time Performance (OTP). Taking off within 15 minutes of the schedule of a flight is globally considered as not delayed.

The report submitted by Biman to the parliamentary standing committee also states the average departure OTP of aircraft in the one year is 69.37 per cent while the average arrival OTP is 66 per cent. That is, more than 30 per cent of the flights miss their schedules in taking off and landing.

On behalf of Biman, hostile weather, operating additional hajj flights and shortage of aircrafts have been mentioned as the reasons behind this. Among them, the issue of hostile weather can be accepted as the Biman authorities do not have any control over this. But the remaining issues could have been solved if Biman wanted to solve them.

Biman earns a huge amount of revenue every year through the additional haj flights. In that case, why wouldn’t they arrange for additional aircraft? Coming to the 53rd year of independence, having 21 aircraft in Biman’s own fleet is not a matter of credit at all. Even if they had bought one aircraft every year, Biman could have been the owner of 53 aircraft by now.

The authorities have mentioned the absence of necessary check-in counters and boarding gates at Shahjalal International Airport behind the delay in flight taking off. But they also have to answer the question why even the minimal requirement of check-in counters and boarding gates couldn’t be constructed despite the government spending millions every year for the development of the airport.

Although the third terminal of Dhaka International Airport had been inaugurated in a grand manner, the failure to start flight operation from there even now is only unfortunate. If the third terminal was opened, the problem of the check-in counters and boarding gates would have been solved to a great extent.

In case of international flights, 20 per cent flight delay is considered acceptable. But the delay in Biman flights is a lot higher than that. If this cannot be reduced quickly, it would be difficult for them to remain in the competition. Biman had once been successful in attracting foreign passengers. Now even the local passengers don’t want to board a Biman flight if there’s an alternative transport available.

Earlier, another report published in Prothom Alo had stated that although the Biman airlines earn good revenue from external poultry and catering sectors, it lags behind in passenger services. Competition in the airspace has increased a lot. Apart from foreign airlines, several private airlines in the country are also making profits and increasing routes one after another. In that case, the delayed flight of the Biman airlines will put the company at greater risk. It must be kept in mind that Biman has to survive by competing with private airlines and not with the subsidies coming from public tax money.

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