Bangladesh plans to buy aircraft from Airbus
Bangladesh plans to purchase new commercial aircraft from Airbus, a Netherlands-based multinational aerospace company, in order to bolster the fleet of Biman Bangladesh Airlines and thereby tap into the growing aviation industry.
"We definitely have plans to buy aircraft from Airbus to increase the size of Biman's fleet and we are working on it," said M Mahbub Ali, the state minister for civil aviation.
However, he did not elaborate on how many planes would be bought or when.
Ali was speaking to reporters after the first-ever Bangladesh Aviation Summit, organised by the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism in collaboration with its France and UK counterparts at a city hotel in Dhaka yesterday.
He went on to say that while Airbus previously submitted proposals for selling aircraft to Biman, the matter was brought up again during the summit.
Emerging from the inaugural session, Shafiul Azim, managing director and CEO of Biman, said discussions are being held with Airbus to this end.
"If it helps meet our requirements, then why not [buy aircraft from Airbus]?" he added.
According to aviation experts, Biman now boasts one of the youngest fleets in Asia with 21 modern aircraft comprised of four Boeing 777-300 ER, four Boeing 787-8, two Boeing 787-9, six Boeing 737-800, and five De Havilland Canada DHC-8 Q400.
Biman owns 18 of the 21 planes while the remaining five are operated on lease.
To bolster its fleet after becoming a public limited company in 2007, Biman went on a shopping spree the following year, spending around Tk 19,020 crore on new planes.
In 2008, Biman had inked a deal with Boeing for purchasing 10 brand new planes, including the four 787-8 aircraft. Later, two 787-9 were also purchased from the American multinational aerospace company.
All 12 of the aircraft were delivered by 2019.
Since 2000, the number of air passengers has increased at an annual rate of 9.1 per cent on average, as per data from the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh.
Some 1.3 million people in the country opted to travel by air that year while the number jumped to about 6 million in 2020.
As such, the aviation market has almost doubled with passenger and cargo transportation growing by about 10 per cent annually over the past 10 years, according to the aviation ministry.
With this backdrop, aviation in Bangladesh is expected to almost triple over the next 15 years.
Currently, the number of air passengers in the country stands at eight million while it is expected to reach 16 million by 2035.
In a written speech at the programme, Ali said that along with the country's socioeconomic development, its civil aviation sector has undergone massive changes in the last 14 years.
And to ensure that passengers are provided with services of international standard while also sustaining the current growth trend of the aviation industry, the present government is implementing various development works along with formulating timely laws and policies.
Work is also underway to ensure the timely expansion of aviation infrastructure across the country, increase passenger services, improve technical and public skills and ensure safe and smooth air navigation.
Besides that, fleet modernisation of Biman Bangladesh Airlines is ongoing.
"In this era of globalisation, it is not possible to achieve the desired goal of development alone in a high-tech industry like aviation as this requires the exchange of technology, research and services," Ali said.
"The UK and France, whose cooperation we received earlier, are interested to support our aviation industry. So, I hope to see them in the future to help develop our aviation," he added.
In his speech, Salman F Rahman, the prime minister's adviser on private industry and investment, said the proposed partnership and collaboration with Airbus will undoubtedly accelerate growth in the local aviation sector. This includes cooperation in areas such as trading, infrastructure development, maintenance, repair and overall service.
He also said Airbus emphasised that it is not only interested in selling aircraft to Bangladesh as the company is keener on transferring technologies and providing training.
Rushanara Ali, trade envoy of the prime minister of the UK to Bangladesh, also spoke at the programme.
Among others, Marie Masdupuy, ambassador of France to Bangladesh, Robert Chatterton Dickson, the British high commissioner to Bangladesh, Mokammel Hossain, secretary of the aviation ministry, Remi Maillard, president and managing director of Airbus India and South Asia, were present.