Biman offering chartered flights to reduce losses
Due to frequent cancellation of scheduled passenger flights due to low passenger count for four days, Biman has now moved to offer chartered flight services on domestic routes.
"Biman Bangladesh Airlines is offering chartered flights to domestic destinations for family trips, at a cost of Tk 3 lakh to Tk 5 lakh depending on the distance," Biman deputy general manager (public relations) Tahera Khandaker, told The Daily Star in a Whatsapp message today.
This is the first time in Biman's history that the national flag carrier has offered chartered flights on domestic routes, sources in Biman said.
Talking to The Daily Star, a senior official of the national airliner said, a special chartered flight is a flight operated by an airliner on special-demand basis for a certain destination -- these flights are not part of the airline's regular flight schedule.
Tahera Khandaker told The Daily Star that anyone will be able charter Biman's aircraft for five hours for a short trip from Dhaka to any of the seven airports in Bangladesh including Saidpur, Chattagram, Sylhet, Jashore, Rajshahi, Cox's Bazar and Barishal.
"After five hours of ground time, additional charges will have to be paid," she added.
Tahera said, operating regular flights on domestic routes at the moment seems economically not viable, due to a shortage of passengers.
"In this backdrop, we have decided to operate chartered flights instead of operating regular ones on the domestic routes," she added.
The national flag carrier was forced to cancel all of its 46 flights between June 1 and June 4 due to lack of passengers and due to high prices of tickets, said sources.
The maiden flight of Biman on Dhaka-Saidpur route took off on June 1 with only four passengers on board, while the return flight had 20 passengers, said Tahera.
Regular flight operations resumed on a limited scale on three domestic routes on June 1, after more than two months of suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to sources, the price difference between the national flag carrier and private operators was one of the main reasons behind the passenger shortage.
Biman was charging Tk 3,000 to Tk 3,200 or more as the starting price for tickets, while the two private airlines in the country -- US-Bangla and Novoair -- charged Tk 1,999 to Tk 2,500 for tickets along the same route.
That is why people are moving to the two private operators for air travel, said the sources.
A senior official of Biman said they did not want to operate flights while incurring losses.
"Other airlines are operating their flights at a reduced price. But we don't want to do unhealthy business," the source said, wishing to remain anonymous.
"Our starting price is Tk 3,000 to Tk 3,200, while other air operators are offering tickets between Tk 2,000 to Tk 2,500. We will not operate our flights in this way," the source added.
"Instead of domestic flights, we are giving priority to operate chartered flights on international routes, which is profitable."