Bangladesh Biman Plans Fleet Renewal

March 24, 2005

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State-owned Biman Bangladesh Airlines, which has struggled to maintain schedules with its aged fleet, said it planned to buy 10 new wide-bodied Airbus and Boeing aircraft.

Spokesman Syed Ahsan Hossain Kazi on Thursday said the airline wanted to buy six Airbus A330s and four Boeing 777s directly from the manufacturers.

"Biman's board... took the decision to add 10 modern wide-bodied aircraft for international flights," Kazi said. "Before we move forward on this, the board decision will require approval from the ministerial purchase committee."

The committee is the top agency for approving government purchases. It usually approves such requests.

A source close to the planned purchase said Biman was already in talks with financiers.

The list price of the 10 aircraft is around USD$1 billion, according to industry sources.

Biman wants the new planes as part of its fleet upgrade and in a bid to reduce high maintenance costs, said Kobita Papari, an aviation analyst, adding Biman was also concerned about foreign airlines growing interest in Bangladesh, especially in its regional carriers.

Biman flies 26 international routes, including Europe, the Middle East, Far East and North America with its fleet of 14 aircraft, including six DC10-30s, four A310-300s and four Fokker F-28s.

Biman last year bought two F-28s that failed to fly on schedule due to mechanical problems, aviation sources said.

The airline has been making losses since fiscal 1996-97, when it took on an expensive lease of two new Airbus A310-300s, Biman officials said, but it earned a net profit of 130 million taka (USD$2.05 million) in the year to last June.

(Reuters)