Biman to use own planes for hajj flights
It's [operating hajj flights] a matter of two months. There will be no major disruption to the scheduled flights. The frequency of flights to Middle Eastern countries will not be reduced.
Biman Bangladesh Airlines has decided to operate this year's hajj flights with its own aircraft, scrapping its earlier plan to ferry pilgrims in leased aircraft.
The latest decision of the national flag carrier may cause disruption in its flight operation on various routes, according to Biman sources.
Besides, Biman will also have to reduce the number of flights on different routes, they further said.
According to aviation experts, Biman's plans to operate this year's hajj flights has shown a lack of professionalism.
Initially, Biman decided to lease two Airbus A-330s from Lithuania-based Heston Airlines, which was scrapped amid allegations of massive irregularities.
The national flag carrier was at risk of incurring a loss of about Tk 200 crore with the initial plan, according to Biman sources.
The sources also mentioned that the pair of 266-seat Airbus A330s were 13-year-old cargo planes.
Biman has now devised a new plan to operate hajj flights with its four Boeing 777s -- which are usually used for flights on Doha, Abu Dhabi and Kuwait routes.
The flights are scheduled to start from May 31, said sources.
State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism Md Mahbub Ali yesterday at a press conference told reporters that Biman would carry pilgrims via 75 dedicated Boeing-777 trips this year, and the decision has been finalised.
Mahbub Ali said he had asked Biman officials to ensure that passengers who had already booked tickets for Doha, Abu Dhabi and Kuwait routes are not harassed and the flight schedules are not disrupted.
He said four Boeing 777 aircraft of the 21 aircraft in Biman's fleet will be used to operate the hajj flights, like it was done back in 2019.
Biman will also reduce the frequency of scheduled flights, which are less urgent and less profitable, to different destinations, for smooth operation, the state minister for civil aviation and tourism said.
"It's [operating hajj flights] a matter of two months. There will be no major disruption to scheduled flights. The frequency of flights to Middle Eastern countries will not be reduced," he added.
Talking to this correspondent, Biman Managing Director and CEO Dr Abu Saleh Mostafa Kamal said it is true that Biman will have to reduce its flight frequency on different routes to accommodate hajj flights.
However, he claimed that this disruption will not have any major effect for passengers.
A total of 57,585 Bangladeshis can perform hajj this year -- likely to be scheduled on July 8 -- depending on the sighting of the moon.
Biman will carry 28,792 pilgrims on 75 dedicated flights, while the rest will fly by Saudia and Flynas.
Of the total pilgrims, 4,000 will perform hajj under the government's management, while the rest will be under private hajj agencies, said Kamal.
In 2019, around 1.27 lakh Bangladeshis were allowed to perform hajj. However, due to the pandemic, the largest annual Muslim congregation has been held on a limited scale for the last two years.