United Airways turnover to zoom this year
Private carrier United Airways aims to triple turnover in 2009 as it plans to expand global operations by acquiring a 170-seater MD-83 aircraft for $9 million (Tk 62 crore).
“We target a turnover of Tk 140 crore this year. It's a realistic figure because we will have new routes with a strengthened fleet,” said Jilanee FR Chowdhury, marketing and sales director of United Airways.
The carrier recorded turnover of about Tk 41 crore in 2008 and expects to generate about Tk 80 crore from its planned expansion to three new destinations, including the Gulf aviation hub of Dubai, Kuala Lumpur and Kathmandu by mid-2009.
“All three flights will equally be our priority. But we foresee Dubai to be our first flight,” he said. The carrier also plans to increase the number of flights to Kolkata in April.
United Airways tags its revenue target and expansion drive at a time when the airlines industry grapples with falling travel demand as recession dries up businesses and consumers' travel budgets.
In 2008, the global airline industry lost up to $8 billion, according to International Air Transport Association. It forecasts a 3 percent fall in passenger traffic this year.
The Bangladesh aviation industry suffered a fall of about 16 percent in air travel ticketing, to reach about 27.5 lakh in 2008 from about 33 lakh in the previous year, said Association of Travel Agents of Bangladesh (ATAB) President MA Muhaimin Saleh.
Traditionally, local airlines rely on migrant workers to the Middle East and Southeast Asian economies that employs majority of Bangladesh's five million plus migrant workers.
But as the recession deepens and oil prices slide, the outflow of migrant workers records a gradual decline while many are on the return, flying existing carriers such as Biman, Emirates, Malaysia Airlines and GMG Airlines.
United Airways, which entered the domestic aviation market in July 2007, however said it would not be hurt significantly because of operating a limited number of flights with limited capacity.
“Passenger travel will be reduced, but not shut,” said Chowdhury. “We may receive limited passengers for a certain period of time. But when the time comes, we will be ahead of others.”
Chowdhury believed that the expansion plan would give the carrier an upper hand as new flights will be based on its own aircraft. It does not have to bear the burden of paying lease money other carriers.
“Our operations are not financed by borrowings. Our investors provided the funds to go for procurement. This has given us room to play,” he said.
The 3-fleet carrier, consisting of the previously purchased two Dash 8-100 at a cost of about $8.5 million (Tk 57 crore), said it would operate three flights a week to Dubai and allocate the rest of the week to fly on the two remaining planned routes.
“It's a reasonable expansion. Three flights a week is safe and it is a planned step,” said the official of United Airways that now makes 20 departures daily for its domestic and Kolkata destinations.
The carrier aims to break even by 2010.