Biman Bangladesh Targets U.S. Return Despite Safety Obstacle

biman Bangladesh boeing 787-9
Credit: Travers Lewis/Alamy Stock Photo

Biman Bangladesh Airlines has filed an application with the U.S. Transportation Department (DOT) seeking permission to resume flights to the U.S. from next summer.

The carrier hopes to launch operations between Dhaka’s Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (DAC) and New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), flying five times per week using 298-seat Boeing 787-9 aircraft. The proposed route would operate with a stop in Izmir, Turkey.

Biman last served the U.S. on its own metal until July 2006, DOT data shows, operating to JFK via Brussels. However, its U.S. exemption authority and foreign air carrier permit expired in 2018.

If the airline secures fresh approval, it says the service would “promote fair competition in the marketplace and ... will facilitate the expansion of fair international air transport opportunities in the public interest.”

The carrier has also identified Boston, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Newark and Washington as future U.S. route targets, which could be served via Abu Dhabi, Amsterdam, Birmingham, Brussels, Istanbul, Izmir, Manchester, New Delhi or Rome.

Despite the application, Biman acknowledges that it is unable to launch flights to the U.S at present owing to Bangladesh’s Category 2 safety rating with the FAA. However, it believes that the safety rating will be ungraded “soon” and has asked the DOT to review its application, but wait until Category 1 is achieved before making a decision.

Although there are no nonstop flights operating between Bangladesh and the U.S., traffic flows between the countries are strong. Sabre Market Intelligence data shows that O&D traffic amounted to 330,000 two-way passengers in 2022, with Bangladesh-New York accounting for about 172,000 passengers.

However, Biman is not expecting a JFK service to be profitable in the first year of operation. Documents submitted to the DOT outline that a loss of $53.2 million is expected, equating to losses of more than $1 million per week.

Bangladesh and the U.S. signed an Open Skies agreement in October 2020, paving the way for the two nations to establish “a modern civil aviation relationship.” The deal included unrestricted capacity and frequency of services, open route rights, a liberal charter regime and codesharing opportunities on routes between the countries.

Separate to the DOT application, Aviation Week reported in late August that Biman has restarted flying to Japan after an absence of almost 17 years with a route to Tokyo. Service commenced on Sept. 1, linking DAC with Tokyo Narita International Airport three times per week.

David Casey

David Casey is Editor in Chief of Routes, the global route development community's trusted source for news and information.