Friday, July 24, 2015

Biman hires Mega Maldives to tackle hajj pressure

Biman Bangladesh Airlines has struck a deal with Mega Maldives Airlines to meet the additional demand for aircraft in times of hajj, officials said.

The deal will cost the state-run airline at least $4.785 million, which is equivalent to Tk 38 crore.

Mega will work as a supporting carrier for Biman, which some bidders claim is a major deviation from the conditions of the bidding.

They said the tender was to operate Dhaka-Jeddah-Dhaka hajj flights, which Biman will now run with its own fleet by suspending regular flights on some routes and reducing others.

Mega Maldives has been hired for a total of 750 flight hours for three months, with each hour costing Biman $6,380. If Biman wants to resume regular flights or bump up flights on the other routes, the Mega aircraft will be used.

Biman will be charged $5,800 for each flight hour beyond the contracted 750. The aircraft will be taken from early next month on an ACMI (aircraft, crew, maintenance and insurance) basis, popularly known as wet lease.

Mega Maldives has won the contract as the lowest bidder, said Abdur Rahman Faruky, Biman's general manager for corporate planning.

“There was no deviation or breach of terms and conditions mentioned in the tender documents. Biman will use Mega where it requires,” said Mohammad Azad Rahman, Biman's manager of planning.

“We have hired Mega for 750 hours to tackle the additional pressure during Hajj time. It doesn't mean that we will use them on the Dhaka-Jeddah-Dhaka route only. We can run Mega aircraft on any of the Biman's routes.”

Presently, Biman flies passengers and cargo to 18 international destinations in Asia and Europe with its 12 aircraft.

But the flag carrier is stretched to its limits during hajj period.

Around 100,000 people will perform hajj from Bangladesh this year and Biman will carry half of the total pilgrims and Saudi Airlines the rest.

But Biman's fleet is not enough to deal with the pressure.

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

In 2014, Biman did not lease any aircraft to run hajj flights as their experience in the previous year was bitter.

An aircraft Biman had leased to carry pilgrims in 2013 could not fly for not having clearances from the Saudi Arabian civil aviation authority. The disruption of flight schedule had caused immense sufferings to the pilgrims.

But this time, they are being extra cautious so that the sufferings are not repeated, said Biman officials.

Eight international airlines responded to Biman Bangladesh Airlines' tender seeking aircraft during hajj time this year. Mega Maldives won the bidding.

Founded in 2009 as a US-Maldives joint venture, Mega Maldives now serves as the international airline of the island nation. Almost 10 percent of the total tourists arrive in the Maldives on Mega.


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