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Dhaka Tribune

Boeing, Airbus compete to secure orders from Biman

  • Biman currently operates a fleet of 21 aircraft
  • Airbus purchase announcement enhanced ties with three countries 
Update : 25 Dec 2023, 12:23 PM

Boeing and Airbus, the world's two major aircraft manufacturers, are desperate to get orders from Biman, by presenting a range of proposals.

High-level leaders and officials of the respective countries are also lobbying in various ways.

Biman Bangladesh Airlines currently operates a fleet of 21 aircraft, of which 16 are supplied by the US-based Boeing Company.

In pursuit of fleet expansion, Biman is looking to add 10 more aircraft. Both the government and Biman have expressed their intention to procure these additional aircraft from Airbus.

Nevertheless, Boeing is actively vying for Biman's attention, offering a variety of proposals to secure the aircraft order.

Back in 2008, Biman Bangladesh Airlines inked an agreement with Boeing to procure 10 new aircraft across three different models for a total of $2.1 billion. 

This order included four Boeing 777-300ER, two Boeing 737-800, and four Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner aircraft. The delivery process spanned approximately 11 years. 

Subsequently, Biman expanded its Dreamliner fleet by purchasing two additional aircraft from Boeing. In addition to these, Biman's fleet also comprises five Bombardier Dash-8 aircraft.

Why does Biman want to buy planes?

The national flag carrier operates flights on seven domestic routes and 22 international routes. 

They are moving forward with plans to increase more routes and increase flight frequencies. 

Recently, Biman launched flights to Canada, Japan and Chennai in India. 

Biman now plans to launch flights to New York, Rome, Italy and some other destinations while increasing the number of flights to Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Chennai and Canada.

In this regard, Shafiul Azim, managing director and CEO of Biman Bangladesh Airlines, said the purchase of new aircraft is necessary for the expansion of the business. Biman has to compete with Emirates, Singapore Airlines, with Qatar Airways. “If you want to compete with other airlines, you need new aircraft. There is market demand, there is capacity to buy aircraft of Biman.”

Shafiul Azim also it takes years to get what they ordered. “It took about 11 years to get 10 aircraft. Hence, considering future needs, you have to order now.”

Earlier, Biman used to lease aircraft, but it has always caused losses for the aircraft. As a result, no more aircraft will be leased, he added.

Why is Airbus in the spotlight?

Biman is using the aircraft of the US company Boeing. The company has also assured Biman to assist in the launch of Biman's New York flights. 

In 2019, Boeing gave Biman Bangladesh Airlines two 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft at a special discount, which were initially ordered by China's Hainan Airlines.

However, as the Chinese airlines did not get the planes, it was offered to Biman later.

In the Bangladesh Aviation Summit held in Dhaka on March 22 this year, French aircraft manufacturer Airbus offered to sell the aircraft to Biman.

A video speech by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was broadcast at the beginning of the program.

In her speech, the premier said the UK-France partnership offered through Airbus is very important to support Bangladesh’s journey in the aviation sector.

UK Prime Minister's Trade Envoy Rushanara Ali said: "As the UK Prime Minister's Trade Envoy, I would like to convey that the UK government is committed to providing strong political support behind Airbus' proposal. The UK is a global leader in the aviation industry and has a long history of helping countries with aviation. This proposal of Airbus can change the picture of the aviation sector of Bangladesh.”

Prime Minister's Private Industry and Investment Adviser Salman F Rahman and UK Investment Minister Lord Dominic Johnson handed over a declaration of bilateral cooperation, including the purchase of passenger and cargo aircraft from Airbus, in London on May 6 of the same year. 

Later, French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Dhaka on September 10. 

The issue of buying Airbus was still under discussion. At that time, the French president said that Bangladesh had committed to buy 10 aircraft made by Airbus Company and the commitment was important.

Analysts say that the United States is applying various types of pressure on Bangladesh. The pressure of the US administration centered on the election is visible. 

In such a situation, the government is trying to increase friendship with other countries to cope with the pressure of the United States. Although Airbus is based in France, the UK and Germany have partnerships in other areas. 

Bangladesh's relations with these three countries have increased through the announcement of the purchase of Airbus. 

Boeing’s extensive measures

When Biman announced the purchase of aircraft from Airbus, Boeing responded by taking a series of strategic measures.

Boeing had not engaged in extensive promotional activities in Bangladesh throughout its presence here.

However, Boeing held a press conference in Dhaka, and discussed with journalists about their aircraft on May 10. 

At the press conference, Dave Schulte, Boeing commercial marketing managing director for Asia Pacific and India said that if Biman currently buys a new brand of aircraft (Airbus), their cost will be greatly doubled. 

At present, Biman has a technical and pilot team as there is a plethora of Boeing in its fleet. However, if Biman takes a new brand aircraft, then they will need two sets of technical teams, two sets of pilots, two sets of training teams, and two sets of simulators. This will increase the cost of the aircraft several times, he added.

In October, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said the government was negotiating to buy planes from Airbus as part of Biman's diversification, however, Boeing offered its planes at half prices. “Several groups have met with the Prime Minister so that we purchase the aircraft from Boeing.”

What will Biman do?

Asked what decision Bangladesh Biman is going to take, its Managing Director Shafiul Azim said: "We have come up with a proposal knowing that we have the capacity. The proposals of both (Boeing and Airbus) are on our table, nothing is final yet.”

He said Biman would make its selection based on factors such as securing a favorable price, receiving enhanced facilities, and maximizing overall profitability. 

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