Biman Bangladesh Airlines is set to resume direct flight operations between Dhaka and Delhi after a five-year gap following Jet Airways' indefinite flight suspension that left no direct flights between the capitals of the two close partners.
The thrice-a-week direct flights will resume from May 13 to take the national flag carrier's tally of international routes to 16. The fare for the route, which will be serviced with a 162-seater Boeing 737-800 aircraft, is yet to be fixed.
The national flag carrier is restarting the route with cautious optimism: it had suspended it in 2013 after it became commercially unviable due to low occupancy as flyers opted for Indian airlines Jet Airways and Air India.
But Air India stopped the direct flights in 2015, while Jet Airways' return is uncertain.
“We will have a monopoly market this time, and there is a huge demand for direct flights to Delhi for business and treatment purposes,” said Shakil Meraj, general manager of Biman.
But aviation experts are less sanguine.
“Suspension of flights by Jet Airways will not make Biman's operations to Delhi commercially viable,” said Kazi Wahidul Alam, a former director of the state-owned carrier.
The reason being passengers have the economic option of catching a domestic flight to Delhi from Kolkata. At present, there are more than nine direct flights between Kolkata and Dhaka.
Those who are pressed for time tend to opt for the direct flight and even then Biman does not serve their interests properly due to the route not being serviced by daily flights.
“The passenger will have to wait an extra day or two to catch the return flight,” said Alam, now an aviation expert.
The only way the route can be profitable for Biman is if it can attract Indian passengers from Delhi looking to fly to Singapore, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur via Dhaka.
“Biman tried several times in the past to make the route viable,” he said, adding that the Delhi-Dhaka route for Jet Airways was mostly full as 60 percent of the passengers were onward bound from Europe.
The flight frequency on the Dhaka-Delhi route will gradually be increased to five times a week, Meraj said. Other than Delhi, Biman has decided to start flight operations to Guangzhou and Medina as it takes delivery of four new aircraft this year to take its fleet size to 17.
At present, Biman runs flights to Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, Muscat, Riyadh, London, Dubai, Jeddah, Doha, Dammam, Kolkata, Kathmandu, Yangon, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok.