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Last Updated: Monday, 10 March 2008, 12:22 GMT
Biman to buy eight new aircraft
Biman flight
Ministers hope Biman's poor fortunes can be reversed
Bangladesh's state-owned airline, Biman, has announced that it will buy eight new aircraft for $1.26bn as part of a fleet upgrade and overhaul.

Ministers say the move is aimed at making the airline profitable.

Correspondents say the long term aim may be the hard task of transforming the ailing airline into a profit-making venture before privatising it.

Biman presently has 11 long haul aircraft, but only about half of them operate on international routes.

'More efficient'

"We want to give a new face to Biman," Civil Aviation Minister Mahbub Jamil said.

Correspondents say that the US plane maker, Boeing, narrowly beat its European rival, Airbus, for the contract to supply the planes.

Biman flight
Successive governments have been reluctant to lose control of Biman

"Biman's board has decided to procure four Boeing 777-300ER and four 787-8 aircraft as part of the fleet overhaul," the minister said.

"Our aim is to make Biman profitable by the next financial year," Mr Jamil added.

"Already we hope it will break even this year... as we've made it more efficient," he said.

Boeing will hand over the 463-seat 777-300ERs between July and August 2013 and the 294-seat 787-8s between July-December 2017, Mr Jamil said.

He said the company was holding negotiations with Airbus next month for procuring short-haul aircraft.

Biman posted a record loss of more than $120m for the financial year ending June 2006 and is expected to announce a $100m loss for the following financial year - because of increasing global fuel prices and high maintenance costs.

Cash-strapped

"It's the first time in Biman's 35-year history that the national flag carrier is purchasing aircraft directly from the manufacturer and it's being done transparently," Mr Jamil said.

Last year Biman slashed its workforce as part of a privatisation initiative to cut losses.

The airline has been so cash-strapped it is struggled to pay salaries and maintain its elderly fleet of aircraft.

Correspondents say that Biman's erratic passenger schedule, the poor state of its elderly aircraft, its bloated staff numbers and its failure to pay fuel bills have all added to its woes.

In recent years the company has been beset by corruption allegations, especially over aircraft-leasing, with government-appointed middlemen usually named as the beneficiaries.

The airline's difficulties have been attributed by many observers to the reluctance of successive governments to relinquish control of Biman and allow it to stand on its own feet.



SEE ALSO
Bangladesh Biman hits the buffers
16 May 06 |  South Asia
Plane crashes in north Bangladesh
08 Oct 04 |  South Asia
Bangladesh to introduce sky marshals
26 Jan 04 |  South Asia
Stranded pilgrims fly out of Dhaka
07 Feb 02 |  South Asia

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