Dropping the loss-making Frankfurt from its destination list, Biman yesterday added a fourth weekly flight to London.
The move was also part of Biman Bangladesh Airlines' initiative to better utilise its six extended range aircraft -- four Boeing 777-300 and two leased Boeing 777-200.
The fourth weekly flight to London came five days after Biman suspended the Dhaka-Rome-Frankfurt route, which received poor passenger response since its reopening on April 1. However, Dhaka-Rome flights would continue.
Biman had been flying twice a week to Frankfurt via Rome with the 419-seater 777s. On an average day, it carried only 25 to 30 passengers between Frankfurt and Rome, Biman officials said.
The last flight to Frankfurt left Dhaka on October 27 with around 200 people on board. But only 21 -- four business class and 17 economy class -- passengers actually went to Frankfurt. The rest got off in Rome.
“The last managing director [Kevin John Steele] had decided to operate the flight to Frankfurt, which was not a prudent decision,” said Civil Aviation Minister Rashed Khan Menon.
He made the remark in response to a reporter's question while inaugurating the fourth weekly flight to London at Shahjalal International Airport.
Biman's acting managing director AM Mosaddique Ahmed admitted that the Frankfurt venture was costing them dearly but refrained from mentioning how much.
He said one of the reasons for the loss was that they could not make proper onward connections to other destinations due to aircraft constraints.
Steele in April said the Frankfurt route would be profitable as tourists from Europe would travel by Biman to visit tourist destinations like Kathmandu, Bangkok and other places in the region.
Menon and Civil Aviation Secretary Khorshed Alam Chowdhury travelled to London on the flight yesterday to attend a programme in the UK.
The minister said soon Biman would fly Dhaka-Bangkok-Tokyo and Dhaka-Guangzhou.
Earlier, officials had said more than 20 percent of the operational capacity of the six 777s remained unutilised, as they could not open routes in line with their capacity, causing the national carrier to lose crores of taka every year.
However, Biman successfully carried 50,755 hajj pilgrims this year to Saudi Arabia using its own planes. So far, 37,000 of them have been brought back home, said Mosaddique.
About the Dhaka-London route, he said Biman started the flights in 1972 and once there had been seven flights a week. But the number of flights was reduced to three flights a week in 2005, owing to poor service of Biman's then aging DC-10-30s.
Biman Chairman Jamal Uddin Ahmed said they would be able to reopen Biman's domestic operation in January as leasing of two new turbo-prop planes was almost final.