Biman Bangladesh Airlines shows inconsistent capacity through fleet restructure; long-haul network shrinks as carrier prepares for first 787-8
Biman Bangladesh Airlines, the flag carrier of Bangladesh, was founded in January 1972. Presently the airline operates a fleet of 10 aircraft, made-up of four 737-800s, four 777-300s and two Q400s. It will soon receive its first 787-8, one of four on order, while the carrier is also looking to lease in a further three Q400s, with this having been confirmed this week. Currently Biman Bangladesh Airlines is the largest commercial operator in its home market, accounting for 28% of departing seats this year. The airline has recently gone through a fleet restructure, with the average aircraft age presently being 7.6 years. During the restructure however, the annual capacity being flown by the airline has varied.
Inconsistencies within fleet restructure period
Towards the end of 2011, Biman Bangladesh Airlines was at a point where it had steadily increased seat capacity year-on-year, however in 2012 the airline reported a 3.9% decrease in its annual seat offering as it started to phase out its old DC-10s, A310s and 777-200s for new 777-300s. Capacity took a big cut in 2013, with many routes seeing reductions, while services to Bahrain, Manchester and Milan Malpensa were discontinued. Since then, growth for the airline has varied as more 777-300s joined the fleet, while adjustments were also made to the carrier’s short-haul equipment. In 2018 the carrier is reported to be operating 3.85 million seats, the largest it has flown in the period analysed, and up 6.6% against last year, however capacity reduced during parts of the summer in 2017 due to external factors that prevented all operations taking place.
Since 2008, the number of long-haul destinations served by Biman Bangladesh Airlines has reduced, going from a high of five in 2012 to just two in 2018, with London Heathrow and Jeddah classed as the only long-haul destinations left on the network. This figure is based on sectors over 4,500 kilometres which anna.aero classes as the crossover from a medium- to long-haul sector. In 2012, the airline also flew to Manchester, Milan Malpensa and Rome Fiumicino. Since 2012, the airline has attempted to launch only one long-haul service, adding a Frankfurt tag-on to its Rome Fiumicino route in 2014, however the German city only stayed a part of the network between April and November that year, while Rome was cut in 2016.
Since 2014, Biman Bangladesh has added seven new destinations to its network, with two of these having already been removed. Along with the one-season operation to Frankfurt, between 2015 and 2016 the carrier had a short-lived service from Dhaka to Pokhara in Nepal, a route it flew using 737-800s. The only destinations which have launched since 2014 and remain part of the carrier’s network, have all been domestic services, highlighting the importance of this market for the airline. 2014 saw the airline return to Cox’s Bazar, while routes to Jessore, Saidpur, Rajshahi and Barisal were added to its Dhaka schedules.
Dhaka top airport
Biman Bangladesh Airlines’ leading hub is its home base of Dhaka, with the capital city airport being home to just under 40% of the carrier’s departing seat capacity in 2018, having varied between 36% and 41% from 2008 to 2018. Along with Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet top the airport leaderboard, with these airports also seeing a respectable flight programme from the flag carrier. Biman Bangladesh Airlines presently links Chittagong to the capital, Cox’s Bazar and Kolkata this summer, while medium- and long-haul routes to Abu Dhabi, Doha, Dubai, Jeddah and Muscat are also flown. Sylhet is served inbound from London Heathrow on the carrier’s Dhaka – Heathrow – Sylhet – Dhaka service, while Dubai and Dhaka are also connected to the city.
While long-haul reductions and domestic additions have been highlighted, it should be noted that the following destinations have also been served by the airline in recent years from Dhaka, but have since seen flights suspended: Delhi (ended in 2015), Hong Kong (2015), Karachi (2013) and Bahrain (2012). Overall Biman Bangladesh Airlines currently has a network of 23 destinations, of which seven are domestic and eight are cities in the Middle East, with there being strong cultural and religious connections between the region and Bangladesh. The largest destination count that the airline recorded during a calendar year was 25, a total registered in 2011 and again in 2012.
New York and Toronto likely route targets for new 787s
With the airline soon greeting its first 787-8, one of four it has on order, it will likely be looking to add new destinations to its network. With that in mind, anna.aero has decided to take a look at some of the leading unserved destinations from the airline’s largest hub of Dhaka, the likely home for the four aircraft. Data for 2017 shows that the top unserved market from the Bangladesh capital is New York JFK, with over 80,000 one-way indirect passengers flying between Dhaka and the US airport in 2017, representing a PDEW of just under 221 last year. With the airline planning to have a 271-seat configuration for its new 787-8s, the route theoretically could have a load factor of 81% if all indirect traffic was captured and the airport pair was flown daily. The airline is no stranger to JFK, having flown to the airport via Manchester in the early 2000s.
Along with JFK, Rome Fiumicino is also highlighted in light green, with both having been part of the carrier’s network in the not too distant past. Along with New York, another North American destination to make the top 12 is Toronto Pearson. Presently the top three carriers for connections between Dhaka and JFK are the MEB3, with Emirates obtaining 41% of traffic in 2017, followed by Etihad Airways (20%) and Qatar Airways (15%) based on OAG Traffic data.