'We are just about managing to meet our operational costs and nothing more'
Biman Bangladesh Airlines’s move to resume most of its international routes at a time when travel restrictions are still in place due to the global coronavirus pandemic has failed to get the cash register ringing.
Of its 19 international routes, Biman has resumed operation to 15 with its 21-aircraft-strong fleet.
“We are just about managing to meet our operational costs and nothing more,” Md Mokabbir Hossain, managing director and chief executive officer of Biman, told Dhaka Tribune.
The national flag carrier roped in Tk 3.5 crore as revenue in the last three months by operating more than 100 cargo and chartered flights, but insiders said they could have generated more income had they balanced their flight operations between domestic and international routes.
Biman earns a huge amount of money not only by transporting passengers but by also handling extra baggage charges, transporting cargo, ground handling of goods of domestic and foreign airlines operating in Bangladesh.
In 2019, the company earned Tk 900 crore by handling cargo products. Biman used to earn an average of Tk 75 crore per month.
Flights to Kuwait, Manchester, Japan and Bangkok remained suspended due to travel restrictions, according to Hossain.
However, Biman is soon set to resume flights to Chennai, Tokyo, Guangzhou, Toronto, Medina and Kunming (China).
Although flights to Manchester had resumed, it was scrapped again due to the inadequate number of bookings, while direct flights to Toronto in Canada were also cancelled as the country raised security issues.
But Biman is faring well on the domestic routes.
“We have almost gone back to our pre-pandemic earning figures for domestic routes, especially in November 2020 when passenger traffic was 75 per cent,” Hossain said.
Biman is currently operating two flights per day from Dhaka to Saidpur, Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar, Jessore, Sylhet, and one on the Sylhet-Cox's Bazar route.
Between December last year and January this year, the airline saw 48-52 per cent flight occupancy on the Dhaka-Chittagong route, 64-69 per cent on the Dhaka-Cox’s Bazar route, 37-40 per cent on the Dhaka-Sylhet route, and 35-40 per cent on the Dhaka-Saidpur route.
From March 20, Biman will resume flight operations on the Sylhet-Cox’s Bazar and Jessore-Chittagong routes. The routes will be serviced with three flights a day.
In 2019, Biman had carried 26.72 lakh passengers on the international and domestic routes.
During the Hajj season in 2019, Biman carried about 1.3 lakh pilgrims.
But that was not possible in 2020 as the pandemic had forced Saudi Arabia to bar overseas pilgrims from participating in Hajj that year.