Biman Bangladesh Airlines is ready to return to the United States. And this time it plans to do so using its own aircraft from Dhaka.
Biman served JFK airport via a European connection until 2006 on its DC-10 aircraft via Brussels, but held authorization to serve the US until 2018. For 2010 and 2011 it operated via Manchester on a 777-200. Those flights required the airline to wet-lease an aircraft from another airline with the necessary safety ratings to operate flights to the United States. By 2018 the carrier chose to not renew its operating authorization with the US Department of Transportation, noting the economics of that operation were considered unsustainable.
The airline now expects Bangladesh’s safety rating to shift to a Level 1 “soon, after the FAA and Bangladesh’s CAAB continue their joint work.” Once that happens Biman intends to launch flights on its own aircraft between between Dhaka and Newark. Or maybe JFK. Both are listed in the filing, somewhat interchangeably.
Biman anticipates service operating 5x weekly to begin. The nearly 7,900 mile route could theoretically be served nonstop by the 787-9, but Biman plans for it to stop in Izmir, Turkey en route. The Izmir stop adds 1,000 miles to the journey, but also removes the need to operate as a polar routing.
The carrier cites Boston, Houston, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Washington, DC as potential future growth markets. It also anticipates a variety of connection points along the way, including Abu Dhabi, Rome, Brussels, Manchester, Birmingham, Istanbul, New Delhi, and Amsterdam.
It is unclear from the carrier’s filing if it holds fifth freedom rights to pick up local traffic in Izmir or if that will be used solely as a tech stop for the operations. The airline currently operates to Toronto with a tech stop in Istanbul.
A money-losing venture
Wondering if the route will be profitable for the carrier? Exhibit M in the filing details the expected passenger numbers and revenue for the first year of operation, and the news is not good.
Biman estimates 476 passengers total for each round trip operation, paying ~$800 on average in each direction for the journey. But with direct operating costs of $15,000 per hour for the 787-9, the carrier expects to lose more than $53 million in the first year.
That estimate is based, in part, on a worst case scenario of fuel costs in New York. And only realizing $800 in revenue per round trip seems terribly low as an average fare paid. But even with those assumptions the forecast is a major loss to shoulder for the airline to launch New York as a prestige route, especially with its service being one stop, just like the existing offerings.
Getting to $2400 average r/t fare would bring the route to break-even, assuming the 70% load factor holds. Current one-stop connecting fares seem to range between $900-$1000 depending on the season, so that would be something of a jump to make the route profitable.
It is, for now, all just a theoretical exercise. The route will not launch unless and until Bangladesh receives a Level 1 rating for its IOSA audit. Indeed, it explicitly requests that the DOT not process this application until that is resolved.
But once that happens expect to see the carrier move aggressively to launch the route.
Note: Fare/profit calculations updated to resolve my errors related to r/t v o/w estimates from the company
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