Staff Correspondent: The board of Biman Bangladesh has decided to purchase two freighter A350 as proposed by the Airbus.
The decision came at the board meeting held on Tuesday, confirmed Mahbub Ali, state minister of Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry.
He said Airbus proposed to sell two freighters and the Biman board has accepted the proposal.
He said the price will be negotiated.
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Airbus proposed its most modern widebody freighter A350 at an asking price of nearly $200 million each according to Biman source.
The Biman Bangladesh Airlines fleet currently consists of 21 aircraft — 10 widebodied Boeing, six narrow-body Boeing 737s and five Dash 8 jets.
At present, Biman has no dedicated cargo plane when global air cargo demand is rising fast even crossing pre-pandemic level.
Moreover, Biman’s entire fleet is dominated by the Boeing company as Airbus has had no presence in the Bangladesh aviation industry in last two decades when India, Malaysia, Thailand are Airbus dominated countries, according to industry insiders.
Currently 14 foreign airlines are operating cargo service targeting only the Bangladesh market. Of the 14 airlines four are using narrow body aircraft and 10 are using wide body aircraft, according to industry insiders.
A senior pilot who has long experience for cargo operation told the Business Standard that 90% of the cargo goods are garments and there is a huge business opportunity in cargo operation which is completely under foreign airlines. If Biman wants to enter this market it needs to start with dedicated wide body aircraft to compete with foreign airlines.
Sharing experience, he said that Biman’s marketing is very week even in passenger flight operations. As a result, the cargo belly of passenger flights could not be used fully when 14 airlines are operating cargo flight dedicatedly, he added.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) in released data for February 2023 shows that global air cargo demand rose above pre-pandemic levels.
In February, demand for air cargo was 2.9% higher than pre-pandemic levels in February 2019-the first time it has surpassed pre-pandemic levels in eight months.
Capacity (measured in available cargo tonne-kilometres, ACTK) was up 8.6% compared to February 2022. The strong uptick in ACTKs reflects the addition of belly capacity as the passenger side of the business continues to recover. International belly-capacity grew by 57.0% in February year-over-year, reaching 75.1% of the 2019 pre-pandemic capacity, according to IATA.
How Bangladesh becomes Airbus’s target market
In February last year, prime minister expressed her desire that Biman would internationally conduct its cargo services with its own planes.
While addressing the golden jubilee anniversary programme of the national carrier, she said Biman will be more profitable if its cargo service continues.
Later in March that year Airbus introduced A350 freighters at Hazrat Shahjalal International airport to showcase its business objective. A high-level team including the Post and Telecommunication Minister Mustafa Jabbar, State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism Mahbub Ali, Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh Chairman Air Vice Marshal M Mafidur Rahman, Biman Bangladesh Airlines then Managing Director Dr Abu Saleh Mostafa Kamal visited the aircraft.
In March this year, French aerospace firm Airbus came up with several proposals, including sales of jets and an aviation partnership with the UK and France, to the Bangladesh government at the aviation summit held in Bangladesh for the first time.
Bangladesh Aviation Summit, organised jointly by the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism, the British High Commission and Embassy of France in Dhaka on 22 March.
After the aviation summit, Airbus in a meeting with Biman specified their intention of selling cargo planes.
How Biman phased out Airbus
Biman for the first time purchased two brand new twin engine wide body Airbus A310 in 1986 for its fleet to operate flights across Middle-east, South-East Asia and regional flight.
Later, it bought two more A310s from Singapore Airlines and Air Jamaica.
From the year 2013, Biman started to ground Airbus plane gradually due to technical glitch and high fuel consumption.
Biman began to add new aircraft to its fleet in 2011 when it purchased two Boeing 777-300 and gradually added more Boeing.
The Biman Bangladesh Airlines fleet currently consists of 21 aircraft — 10 suppressor Boeing, six narrow-body Boeing 737s and five Dash 8 jets.
How A350F competing against Boeing
Airbus claims the A350F is the most environmentally friendly freighter on the market. More than 70% of the A350F’s airframe is made of new materials, resulting in a 30-ton lower takeoff weight. Airbus says the A350F consumes about 40% less jet fuel than its rival’s Boeing 747-400F and about 20% less compared to the Boeing 777F.
In February 2021 Singapore airlines ordered for seven A350 freighter as part of its decision to move away from Boeing. The carrier currently operates seven 747-400 freighters with an average age of 18 years, which will be replaced by the A350F which deliveries are scheduled to begin in the fourth quarter of 2025, according to media reports.
In February 2023, Tata Group-owned Air India announced to buy a total of 470 wide-body and narrow-body planes from Airbus and Boeing, and the total deal value is estimated to be $80 billion as the airline expands its operations.
Of the total deal, the carrier will buy 40 wide-body A350 aircraft and another 210 narrow-body A320neo planes, according to media reports.
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