Tuesday, 24 May, 2022
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Biman’s Dhaka–Toronto Direct Flight and Some Pertinent Issues

Nironjan Roy

Biman’s Dhaka–Toronto Direct Flight and Some Pertinent Issues
Nironjan Roy

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Commercially operating direct flight between Dhaka and Toronto is now a matter of time which has been more apparent with Biman Bangladesh Airlines' successful trial run of direct flight between these two cities on Mar 26, 2022. Expatriate Bangladeshis living in Canada have been demanding direct flight between Dhaka and Toronto for a long time, which has been further ushered when Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina directed Biman Bangladesh to operate direct flight between Dhaka and Toronto. Number of Bangladeshi people living in Toronto and other cities have enormously increased over the last one decade. In addition to permanent residents, innumerable students are coming to Canada for higher studies and this number is increasingly rising. So, the movement of Bangladeshi people between Bangladesh and Canada has significantly risen. Everyday a good number of people including seniors, students and children travel to Bangladesh. Sometimes seniors, women and children are required to travel alone which becomes cumbersome and stressful when traveling through different airlines. Besides, total travel time becomes exorbitantly longer because of long transit times, which multiplies if more than two transit airlines are chosen. Usually, flying hours are almost 18 hours, so when transit time is taken into consideration, a total of four days are spent for round trip in travelling Bangladesh which eventually shortens the stay in Bangladesh. Considering all these factors, there is good demand and potentiality for Bangladesh Biman to operate direct flights between Dhaka and Toronto.

Competitive fare: Although Biman Bangladesh Airlines have made good headway towards commercially operating direct flights between Dhaka and Toronto, details about this flight operation are yet to be learnt. What would be the flight frequency, whether it would be non-stop flight or there will be a stopover on the way and if so, whether passengers will be taken from that stopover are not made clear yet. It is expected that prior to commencing formal commercial operation, these issues will be finalized and made public. Since the decision of operating direct flight between Dhaka and Toronto is final and awaiting formal launching, we can presume that enough groundwork has been made, all pros and cons have been assessed and cost-benefit analysis have been properly carried out. However, there are some factors that must be taken into active consideration in order to make this initiative of direct flight between Dhaka and Toronto comfortable, attractive, successful and sustainable. Needless to say that Biman Bangladesh Airlines will have to compete with internally well reputed and popular airlines including Emirates, Turkish Airlines and Qatar Airways. First of all, ticket fare must be made competitive. It is usual practice that the fare of direct flight is always higher than that of the flight with transits. There is an inverse relationship between number of transits during the flight and fare which means higher the number of transits, lower the fare. On this point, the fare of Dhaka – Toronto direct flight may be higher than other Airlines which operate flights with one or multiple transits. However, there must be a competitive edge in determining the fare of Dhaka – Toronto flight. Expatriate Bangladeshis living in Canada will prefer to fly by Biman Bangladesh Airlines because of emotion, comfort of home-feeling and pride of flying by own carrier, yet money is ultimately a considerable factor at the end of the day. If the fare of Bangladesh Baman’s direct flight is fixed $ 100 over the fare of other competitors’ flight, a four member family will have to pay an additional $ 400 which they can accept. But if the fare is made $ 250 higher, then four members' families will have to bear additional $ 1,000, which most people may be reluctant to pay. So, fare for direct flight between Dhaka and Toronto has to be made competitive with other carriers.

Flight frequency: Flight frequency is very important for making direct flight successful and profitable. In spite of having strong intent, people may not wait 4/5 days to fly by Biman Bangladesh Airline if only one or two flights are operated every week, because managing vacation and time-off in Canada is always preplanned and managed very strategically. Emirates was not that popular when they used to operate flights three days in a week, so they increased their number of flights to five every week and became very popular airlines. At the same time, operating more than two flights may not get full capacity passengers for every flight. Therefore, alternatively New York may be connected with a direct flight network because New York and Toronto are very close and only half an hour flight apart. Biman Bangladesh may also consider operating direct flights between Dhaka and New York and schedule may be made in such a way that two flights between Dhaka and New York via Toronto and two flights between Dhaka and Toronto via New York may operate every week. Specific number of seats must be earmarked for each country. If such an arrangement can be made, Biman Bangladesh Airlines will be able to operate four flights every week covering two populous cities of Canada and USA and there will not be scarcity of passengers. I am not a civil aviation expert, so not sure about any limitation or legal barrier in operating direct flight covering two nearby cities, but if not, this arrangement would be the best available alternative to make Biman’s initiative of direct flight most successful. Besides, passengers of our neighboring countries especially West Bengal and Assam of India and Nepal may be considered as target markets. By effectively using the recent increase in the number of local flights, if connecting flight facilities can be extended to the passengers of our neighboring countries, Dhaka Airport can be made a transit hub of our neighboring places. There are direct flights between Toronto and Delhi and Mumbai but connecting flights to Kolkata or Gouhati take over three hours whereas from Dhaka airport, connection takes only half an hour, so passengers of those areas may prefer Biman’s flight between Dhaka and Toronto.

Inflight services: Inflight service is also important because this route is a very long flight, so attractive inflight service makes the long journey enjoyable and comfortable. Emirates is the most popular airline in providing the best quality inflight service, so people pay a higher price to fly by Emirates because of the best quality inflight service. Emirates is one of few best airlines in the world, so it is not expected that Biman can maintain the same standard of inflight service. However, Emirate is required to ensure inflight service for heterogeneous passengers because people across the world travel by Emirates. On the other hand, Bimal will have to ensure inflight service to the homogeneous passengers because mostly Bangladeshi people will travel by this airline. Obviously, the former is more difficult than the latter, so Biman, if desired, can provide very standard inflight service. Bangladesh, especially private airlines have already demonstrated their ability to provide quality inflight service which I myself enjoyed while travelling by a private airline from Dhaka to India. Inflight service does not necessarily include only food and hospitality as there are other factors which among others include timely departure, attitude of cabin crews, politeness, and dissemination of information on time. Delay for VIP passengers, which is very common in Bangladesh Biman’s flight operation, must be avoided. Available and transparent sale of tickets must be ensured because there is a long allegation of manipulating tickets against Biman. Since Biman has already introduced an e-ticketing system, such allegations will disappear, yet some sort of oversight and control must be in place so that people can conveniently purchase tickets.

Direct flight between Dhaka and Toronto is the long desire of expatriate Bangladeshis living in Canada which is now coming true. However, if good preparation addressing all concerning factors is not taken, this noble objective may fail. This is a very long route flight, so massive investment and substantial expense are involved and therefore, prudence and utmost care must be exercised. It is expected that if appropriate measures are taken, a well prepared and good marketing drive can be carried out, Biman’s Dhaka-Toronto flight can be one of the most profitable routes satisfying the long demand of expatriate Bangladeshis living in Canada.

 

The writer is a Banker based in Toronto, Canada