Biman in trouble for decision to hire aircraft for hajj pilgrims

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Staff Correspondent: Biman Board’s recent decision to hire one wide-bodied aircraft on lease instead of two to carry hajj pilgrims has put the national flag carrier in trouble in getting the additional aircraft to ensure smooth transpiration of the pilgrims.

According to official sources, Biman initially had decided to hire two aircraft and a tender was floated accordingly. The Evaluation Committee also submitted its report in this regard.

But the Biman Board suddenly changed the decision and decided to hire one aircraft for carrying Bangladeshi Hajj pilgrims, an official involved in the Corporate Planning of the national flag carrier told UNB.

He said the lowest bidder of the tender was the Megha Maldives Airlines while the second lowest was Hifly Airlines. Megha is supposed to provide Boeing while Hifly Airbus.

"The problem is that we, as per the evaluation committee report, sent an email to the Megha Airlines saying we’re going to take on lease two aircraft from them. When the decision was changed, we also informed them, but they replied to us saying they won’t provide just one aircraft…we’ll have to take two from them," he said.

Now, he mentioned, Biman will naturally contact the second lowest bidder, Hifly Airlibes. "We’re waiting to get the final decision from the Biman Board," the Biman official said.

The Biman Board will sit in a meeting on June 20.

About change the decision by the Biman Board and problem in getting aircraft, the Biman official said, "We’ve nothing to do about it as the board is the highest decision-making authority of the airlines."

Earlier, 10 airlines had expressed interest to provide aircraft to Biman Bangladesh Airlines for smoothly carrying Hajj pilgrims from Bangladesh to Saudi Arabia this year.

Biman had floated a tender in this regard with condition that the aircraft must be manufactured on October 1, 1995 or later. The aircraft will be taken from early August on ACMI (Aircraft, Crew, Maintenance and Insurance) basis which is popularly known as wet lease.

According to the tender document, the aircraft must have minimum 300 seats in two class configuration and must be capable of flying directly between Dhaka and Jeddah without any load penalty taking into consideration of passenger weight and baggage of 120 kilograms.

Some 1,01,758 Bangladeshis will perform hajj this year. Of them, some 10,000 will perform hajj under the government arrangement, while 91,758 under private arrangement.

Biman Bangladesh Airlines will carry half of the hajj passengers while Saudi Airlines the remaining ones.

Hajj flights to carry Bangladeshi pilgrims to Saudi Arabia will begin on August 16 and continue till September 18 this year. The return hajj flights will begin on September 27 and continue till October 28.

Currently, Biman has four 777-300ERs aircraft with 419 seat capacity each, two 319 seat capacity each 777-200ERs aircraft, two A310-300s aircraft, one has 220 seat capacity while the other has 222 seat capacity, and two 737-800s aircraft with 162 seat capacity each, in its fleet.

It recently also inducted two 74 seated two Dash8-Q400s in its fleet.