Air Transport World

Biman Bangladesh eyes international expansion.

Dhaka--Biman Bangladesh Airlines took another step to strenthen its position in the international marketplace by introducing business class on its McDonnell Douglas DC-10 feet this summer. Long regarded by its competitors as a purely "ethnic traffic" carrier, the national airline of one of the world's poorest countries now is having increasing success in attracting foreign passengers.

Until it bought its three DC-10-30s from Singapore Airlines in 1983, Biman was an all-economy-class carrier with its five Boeing 707s mainly carrying Bangladeshis to and from Europe (there are half a million alone) and laborers to and from the Middle East. Few foreigners flew Biman by choice. Because it decided to take the DC-10s "as is," including their first-class seating, Biman promptly launched a Royal Bengal first-class service. In a few months, new sleeper seats will be fitted to enhance the quality of this service.

Introduction of first-class service does not automatically make an airline first class, of course, and Biman has a long way to go before it can rank with some of its competitors in Southeast Asia. But considering the difficulties it has had to overcome, the achievements of the national airline of Bangladesh in the 13 years since its foundation are highly creditable.

There was complete chaos in the country when, it the end of a six-month war in 1971, Bangladesh emerged as an independent nation after having been East Pakistan since 1947. The airport serving the capital of Dhaka was damaged in the war, and such ground equipment as had not been removed was unserviceable. Pakistan International Airlines had ceased operations to and within the country and had withdrawn the F27 fleet previously based in Dhaka.

But PIA's staff of 2,500 Bangladeshis remained, and it was thanks to their availability that Biman was able to start operations, with a single DC-3 donated by India, early in 1972. …

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