A deal to buy ten Airbuses, including eight passenger planes and two cargo freighters, is likely to be signed during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to the UK, sources at the highest levels of the government told Dhaka Tribune on Wednesday.
The prime minister is expected to approve the deal during her visit, after which a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Airbus and Biman authorities will officially be signed.
Bangladesh-born UK MP Rushanara Ali has visited Bangladesh’s Civil Aviation Ministry several times and has been in favour of the Airbus procurement. She handed over a letter in this regard to the ministry last year. In the same year, representatives of Airbus arranged a showcase of the new Airbus A350 aircraft at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA) in Dhaka.
A top official of the civil aviation ministry confirmed receiving the letter and said: “Airbus offered half the current market price of the aircraft. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other government wings concerned are dealing with the matter.”
State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism Advocate Mahbub Ali said: “The government plans to revive and regain the international aviation market following the prime minister’s directives on turning the country into an aviation hub in the subcontinent. We have taken a policy decision to purchase 10 new state-of-the-art aircraft for Biman.”
Biman Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Shafiul Azim said: “The decision to launch several new routes, including Japan and the United States, has already been taken. The procurement of the Airbus fleet is part of our plans for the region.”
Recently, an official from the European aircraft manufacturing giant Airbus said the firm wants to maintain its presence in Bangladesh’s aviation industry, which is predicted to triple in passenger and cargo traffic by 2040.
Representatives from the company said the new aircraft would be ideal for meeting the rising demand in the aviation industry of Bangladesh and boost Airbus’s relations with the country.
Last year, Rémi Maillard, president of Airbus India and managing director of South Asia region, said: “Airbus is committed to contributing to and developing Biman Bangladesh airlines to recapture the market from foreign carriers.”
To tackle the situation, airlines require a highly competitive modernized long-haul aircraft, which the Airbus family of products, including the A350, can provide, he said.
The Airbus A350 is a long-range, wide-body airliner.
According to an Airbus study, Bangladesh’s aviation markets grew at a 50% faster rate than most other countries in the last ten years, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9% compared to the rest of the world’s (6%).
Can Airbus reclaim the Bangladesh market?
Airbus has been attempting to gain a foothold in Bangladesh’s aviation sector since the 1990s. Biman purchased three AC Airbuses in 1991, but the company has not made another purchase from the company since it ordered 10 Boeings in 2006-2007.
According to an aviation specialist, Boeing clearly controls the widebody aviation industry in South Asia, based on the current structure of airline fleets of the country.
Biman Bangladesh Airlines, US-Bangla Airlines, and some Indian airlines, such as Air India, fly Boeing 787s and 777s, with no Airbus widebody aircraft in their fleets.
This year, the private carrier US-Bangla Airlines added two widebody aircraft Airbus A30 to its fleet to increase its international flights. It will be able to accommodate 436 passengers.”
An aviation specialist and former Biman board member believes that if Biman’s present fleet of Boeings becomes obsolete after ten years, the company may be able to purchase Airbus products.
Another aviation expert said he was not sure that the Airbus A350 was suitable for short-haul flights of up to 8 hours. On the other hand, long-distance flights may be feasible.