Shilla From Germany, joined May 2002, 191 posts, RR: 3 Posted (10 years 10 months 3 weeks 4 days 22 hours ago) and read 8723 times:
Biman Bangladesh Airlines
Flight BG 012, June 4th 2003, 4:50pm
Brussels National Airport - Dhaka Zia International Airport
McDonnell Douglas DC10-30, S2-ACR "The New Era"
Maslin Executive Class - Seat 2A
I got up quite early in the morning to get the last things together for my third trip to Asia. The Brussels website showed my flight to arrive on time - something quite unusual for Biman, but one should never give up hope. The departure time of my flight had been changed several times within the last days and I really hoped that everything would be fine now. I had a THALYS ticket from Aachen to Brussels-Midi, so my dad drove me to the station where I boarded the red train. The first class was quite full on this Wednesday morning. I enjoyed the free breakfast which was included in the ticket price - not bad at all, with coffee, croissant and yoghurt...what a nice start .
At Brussels-Midi, I put my heavy Samsonite into a locker and decided to take a walk through the city as I still had a lot of time. But as the weather was terribly hot that day, I only spent about an hour outside. Back at the station, I bought a ticket to the airport and about half an hour later I entered the terminal building of Zaventem. To my surprise, the Brussels airport is quite a nice building - not overcrowded, although the terminal isn´t that spacious. I checked the counters first, but soon realized that I arrived too early. So I had a nice slice of pizza at the Pizza Hut before taking a walk through the departure hall. The monitors showed my flight to be still on time...puuh .
About two and a half hours before the announced departure time, two check-in counters were opened, one for Economy-Class and one for Biman´s Maslin Executive Class. There had been no queue at both counters, so the friendly lady quickly took my documents and checked me in. At Brussels, Biman is handled by Aviapartner, so no Biman staff was around. I got my boarding pass with seat 2A. Unfortunately, Biman has no lounge at Brussels, so I had to spend the remaining time within the terminal. I visited some of the small shops and had a look inside the different prayer rooms. Not many people were flying on that wednesday, so the atmosphere was quite relaxed.
Security checks passed quickly and I went down the B-concourse towards the announced gate B37, where a lot of people were already waiting for the boarding process. The aircraft was Biman´s "The New Era", the biggest plane at Brussels that day. I felt excited as this should be my first flight on a DC10-30, an aircraft I love to see. Boarding was announced to start at 4:20pm, but nothing happened. When I looked around, I realized that almost all of the people were bangladeshi coming from New York JFK who had been at the transit area for a couple of hours and now hoped to get back to their seats as soon as possible. Later on, I heard that only 5 or 6 passengers boarded at Brussels. At about 5:00pm, boarding was announced and we finally got onboard that old lady.
A friendly young stewardess in her beautiful traditional uniform greeted me at the door and guided me to my seat. The cabin inside looked old with that typical Biman flower design from the late 70´s. It seemed that I had been the only passengers who boarded the Business Class at Brussels. The cabin was almost full, only 8 or 9 seats remained empty. I like the layout of 2x2x2, so no poor guy has to take a middle seat. A safety video was shown in bengali and english language, followed by a prayer.
We had a delay of another 50 minutes, maybe because we lost our assigned slot. The cabin crew served juice as pre-departure drink - I took a mango juice which was very tasty. We finally took of at 6pm and the loud engines lifted us up into the belgian sky.
My seat 2A was in an acceptable condition. The old business class seats do not fully recline and they don´t have a footrest installed, which is a major disadvantage compared to todays standards, but Biman offers a simple hard cushion on the floor which does its job as well. There was enough legroom and my seat was also wide enough, so nothing to complain about. I had some problems to sleep on those seats, but I always have sleepless nights on aircrafts, so Biman....it is not your fault .
While we were slowly reaching our cruising altitude, the friendly female chief purser handed me a nice blue amenity kit (a red one for women) and a headphone. The inflight entertainment was one of the worst I have ever experienced, but maybe that´s just because I was sitting in an aircraft which had been older than I am. The sound quality was disgusting - whenever I plugged the headphone in, I could listen to some unspectacular music channels combined with an unidentified cracking (it almost sounded like they transferred the engine noise directly into the entertainment system). The same problem occurred as the captain tried to welcome everybody on board...you could hardly understand a word. The video program was also very boring. Biman only presented some bengali comedy and music shows, so I didn´t really pay attention to that. When I asked a stewardess for a menu, she came back with the chief purser who explained that they didn´t have a menu because of major schedule changes due to runway constructions at Zia International Airport. Instead, the crew came around with a list and asked everybody what he or she liked for dinner. Biman offered three different choices, I decided to take Chicken Badami with rice and vegetables, mixed salad, bread and butter. For dessert, they served some chocolate cream puffs. My drinks consisted of champagne and coke, afterwards I also took a cup of coffee. The meal itself was a very good choice, maybe not a full business class product compared to other airlines, but still better than some average economy class meals I had on several intercontinal flights.
During the flight, I had a nice conversation with a young bangladeshi guy sitting next to me, whose father was a Biman flight engineer onboard. He came by several times and sat down in the back until it was his turn to take place in the cockpit as third man. What I liked most about this flight was the extremely friendly crew, especially chief purser Ameen, who really cared about her guests onboard. If you pushed the call button, the crew reacted immediately. No rude behavior at all, maybe that only happens in Economy class ?!
About 2 hours before touchdown at Dhaka, the crew served a light meal which consisted of chicken filet with noodles and vegetables, bread and chocolate pudding. Compared to dinner, this was more a standard meal and nothing special at all, but still acceptable.
The flight itself was quiet, most of the passengers were sleeping after the long first leg from New York to Brussels which they had to endure.
30 minutes before landing at Zia - near the city of Chittagong - we experienced some heavy turbulence. I hoped that "The New Era" was still strong enough to lead us through that thunderstorm without any problems. Some minutes later, the sky was calm again and the old lady touched down at Dhaka Zia International Airport right on time.
The airport itself is a shabby concrete building with no charme at all. As my continuing flight to Bangkok was scheduled the next day, I had been given a hotel room by Biman. After a 30 minute wait at the transfer desk, we were told to follow some guy outside. At Brussels, the staff told me that my luggage would be directly checked through to Bangkok, so I packed some clothes into my cabin bag. Somehow I had a strange feeling about that and so I went to the baggage claim area where I already saw my bag on the belt. I picked it up angrily and followed the Biman ground staff to a little bus, which was parked in front of the airport. Outside, hundreds of people were staring at us (us=mostly european transit passengers) - a real strange situation. We were given a room at the "Blue Bell Hotel", a 0-star hotel next to a nice construction area. The room itself was shabby with cockroaches on the floor....very business-class like . But that´s a different story, maybe too long to write about here (but you can ask me if you like horror stories). One good thing is that a guy from Denmark and I managed to organize a city tour by taxi although both of us didn´t have a visa which was necessary to enter Bangladesh. You feel like a pop-star when you move around in Dhaka. There´s always a crowd of maybe 20 people who are just staring at you. They are not unfriendly, let´s call it "indifferent". An experience I won´t forget. A lot of different people were put together in the "Blue Bell Hotel", and all of them waited for their onward flights the next day...
Oh and I forgot to mention a funny thing that happened to the Biman shuttle bus: It rained a lot in Dhaka and the street was a real mess. After the bus had unloaded some more unlucky guys at the hotel, the driver tried to make a turn on the street but instead, he got stuck in a muddy hole so that the bus nearly fell on its side .
Biman Bangladesh Airlines
Flight BG 073 , June 5th 2003, 9:00am
Dhaka Zia International Airport - Bangkok Don Muang Airport
After a horrible night in the oasis of luxury and a quick coffee, we boarded the bus for Zia International. I´ve never seen an airport that close to a city centre before. Outside the terminal building there were those crowds of people staring at us again. When the bus stopped, some security guys pushed the crowd aside so that we could enter the airport - very rude behaviour if you ask me.
We went to the Biman transit desk, where a lot of people were already waiting for their boarding passes and their passports, which had been taken by the ground staff on arrival. Most of the passengers were booked on the 9am flight to BKK. We waited for more than 2 hours at the transit desk...nothing happened at all. Neither our passports were given out, nor the required boarding passes - simply no information was given at all. I was getting a bit nervous as I had a connecting flight from BKK to NRT on Air India in the late afternoon. To make a long story short - finally we were informed that Biman changed its aircraft from Airbus A310 to Boeing 737 and as a result, the machine had been totally overbooked. Well done, Biman ! Now what happened to all those stranded passengers as BG 073 was the only flight to BKK that day ?!
Another hour passed and everybody tried to get in contact with somebody of the ground staff. A group of annoyed passengers even entered the general managers office and shouted at him. We were moved to a different counter where we should present our ticket. I can tell you, I had been a lucky guy as I was the only passenger who was rebooked onto Thai Airways flight TG 322 to BKK, which was scheduled for 1:10pm - the last chance to get to Bangkok. The general manager had to sign my ticket and some minutes later, I queued at the Thai check-in counter. Biman told me, that the C-class on this flight was full, so I had to take an Economy seat. Ok, that was better than being transferred to this hotel again, so I accepted. Later on, I realized that this was a lie as the Business-class was almost empty.
So I said goodbye to all those poor souls left behind at Dhaka, visited the simple Maslin lounge for a quick drink and boarded the TG Airbus A330-300. A nice and quiet flight with no hassle at all, that was all I wanted.
Biman Bangladesh Airlines
Flight BG 079, June 20th 2003, 4:00pm
Bankok Don Muang Airport - Dhaka Zia International Airport
Airbus A310-325, S2-ADF
Maslin Executive Class - Seat 1G
After some nice days in Tokyo, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, it was time to go home. The Malaysia Airlines morning flight from KUL arrived on time, so I had some hours to spend at the airport. The Biman check-in counters opened two hours before the scheduled departure time. Again, I seemed to be the only passenger checking in at the C-class counter. To my surprise, the young lady gave me a hand-written boarding pass, exclusively for Maslin Executive Class. Biman has a small lounge at BKK, so I sat down a took a tonic water from the bar. This lounge was much nicer than the one in Dhaka and you had a good view out on the tarmac. Suddenly, the captain of my flight entered the lounge and we had a little conversation about Biman and flying in general. I asked him if it will be possible to enter the cockpit later on and he agreed. Wow...great !
Boarding was announced and I entered the Business-Class cabin, which was almost empty. Only one female passenger coming from NRT and another Biman captain (he had been at the lounge together with his daughter who departed for Australia that day) joined me. This time, we were given welcome drinks together with the menu. On this 2h20 flight, you had the choice between:
served with Chateau Potatoes & Vegetables
served with Parsely Potatoes & Mixed Vegetables
Bread Varieties - Butter
Tea / Coffee
I decided to take the Lamb Chop - a good choice, although the meat had a strong taste. The canapés were excellent and the dessert was edible, too.
Unfortunately, the PTV´s onboard were not working, but I didn´t care as I supposed to be forced to watch some bengali comedy shows again. Instead I read the inflight magazin "Diganto" which was not too bad.
One hour had passed when a steward came to my seat and invited me into the cockpit. I was offered a coke and captain Badrul Alam informed me about the aircraft and our route. Wow, what a nice act - thanks again to the whole crew. I took some pictures before I went back to my seat.
We touched down at Zia International at 6:30pm where I went upstairs to the Maslin Lounge - not a nice place at all, but better than being forced to sit on those shabby plastic chairs inside the terminal. A waiter served drinks and some snacks were available. The lounge was surprisingly full that evening - one family waited for their delayed flight to KTM. The Duty-Free shop at DAC was a joke as they didn´t accept credit cards, so I hadn´t been able to buy anything.
Biman Bangladesh Airlines
Flight BG 011, June 20th 2003, 11:45pm
Dhaka Zia International Airport - Brussels National Airport (via Dubai International Airport)
McDonnell Douglas DC10-30, S2-ACR "The New Era"
Maslin Executive Class - Seat 1D
Security checks at DAC passed quickly, but I had the impression that they weren´t taken seriously enough. DAC - a terrorists paradise ?
At the announced gate, a lot of people were already waiting. The boarding process finally started and I entered the "The New Era" again. This time, I had a seat in the first middle row, so I could stretch out my legs. The Maslin Class was almost fully booked, of course most of the passengers were on their long way to New York and not to Brussels. The flight itself was quiet and relaxing, although the Biman staff had some problems with the meals again. A stewardess handed me my amenity kit and a mango juice, which was tasty as always. On the Dhaka-Dubai sector, it was dinner time:
served with Raisin Pulao and Mixed Vegetable Curry
Pillard of Veal
served with Lyonaise Potatoes and Glazed Vegetables
Bread Varieties - Butter
Tea / Coffee
I took the Chicken Badami and Biman didn´t disappoint me again. But they disappointed a lot of my fellow passenges who wanted to take a different meal. Biman had almost 30 Chicken meals onboard, but only 2 or 3 other ones. A bangladeshi journalist who was sitting next to me really felt ashamed for his country and its airline and he put the blame on the poor chief purser and his young stewardess, who tried to explain the mess, but couldn´t find the right words. My god, I didn´t care that much. Of course that shouldn´t have happened, but I was satisfied with my meal. After a few glasses of champagne, I reclined my seat and relaxed.
We had a short stop at DXB where we could enter the airport for 45 minutes, so I used the time to walk through those impressive Duty Free shops. Time passed quickly and we entered the aircraft for the next leg (6h55) to BRU.
Biman showed boring TV shows again, some of them were exactly the same as on the inbound trip.
After a refreshment with hot towels, breakfast was served:
served with Beef Sausage & Grilled Tomato
Poached Egg Florentine
served with Fish Croquette & Sauted Tomato
served with Vegetable Bhajee Chick Pea & Tomato Massala
Butter and Preserves
Tea / Coffee
This time, everbody got the choice he ordered, so I could enjoy my omelette without being interrupted. The breakfast was quite ok, nothing special.
We touched down at BRU right on time and I said goodbye to an airline which both impressed me and made me angry at the same time. But I would definetely fly Biman again, maybe next time without a stop at the "Blue Hell" .
And please don´t believe those horror stories, they are not true, even if Biman is not perfect. It always surprises me that a poor country like Bangladesh manages such a big airline.
Ndebele From Germany, joined Apr 2001, 2901 posts, RR: 22
Reply 2, posted (10 years 10 months 3 weeks 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 8206 times:
Great, I've been waiting for a Biman report on this forum for a long time, thanks for sharing your impressions! Must be fun to fly on a DC-10, and although Biman seems to be a little unorganized sometimes (e.g. regarding that amenity kit for women), I'm still thinking about giving them a try one day.
What, only five or six passengers boarded at BRU? The two check-in agents at BRU must have had a boring afternoon!
You had to leave your passports at the airport for transit at DAC? I wouldn't have a good feeling to do that, I mean, imagine if they don't find your passport the next day, stranded in Bangladesh without a passport...
Thanks again for this report, I enjoyed reading it a lot!
Srilankan_340 From United Kingdom, joined Oct 2002, 201 posts, RR: 2
Reply 3, posted (10 years 10 months 3 weeks 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 8196 times:
It's not very often we get to read reports of some of the more "exotic" airlines.
Sounds like you had a nightmarish outward journey! It's a bit bizarre having your passports taken away from you while in transit! I would have been a bit reluctant to hand it over, especially somewhere like Dhaka.
What happens if you had to change money or something?
People are often unreasonable, illogical and self- centered: Forgive them anyway - Mother Theresa
Sabena332 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 4, posted (10 years 10 months 3 weeks 4 days 19 hours ago) and read 8171 times:
Very good and detailed trip report about your flights with this rather exotic airline, it was a pleasure to read!
I am wondering that BG doesn't have a lounge in BRU, at least they could offer their Business Class passengers access to a partner lounge, when I flew on AF in Business Class one year ago, I could use the OS lounge at VIE because AF doesn't have an own lounge there.
I agree with you, the duty-free shop area at DXB looks very impressive, a few days ago I was also there, but unfortunately, I couldn't buy anything because I was in a damn hurry to get to my departure gate.
Very nice that you were invited to a cockpit visit, this is very unusual nowadays and in my opinion more interesting than the usually inflight entertainment .
PanAmerican From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 384 posts, RR: 5
Reply 5, posted (10 years 10 months 3 weeks 4 days 15 hours ago) and read 8112 times:
very cool report. It is always a pleasure to read about those interesting trips on airlines you don't usually hear about often, not like a boring nostop flight to BKK. I'd always opt for such an adventurous trip over a flight on a western airline if the price is right...
May I ask why you chose Biman Bangladesh? Just out of curiousity or because they were the cheapest?
Where did you book the trip with them? I heard that it is quite hard to get a ticket as there are almost no travel agencies that cooperate with them...
How much did you pay for the BRU-BKK-BRU flights anyway?
Actually, I'd love to hear the horror story of your Dhaka experience...
I'd love to go there to see for myself how it looks there
Gamps From United States of America, joined Jul 2003, 469 posts, RR: 1
Reply 6, posted (10 years 10 months 3 weeks 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 8113 times:
As others have said it is good to see trip reports on "exotic airliners".
One question though - on the way to Dhaka was it BRU:DAC non-stop or did it stop at Delhi or DXB? In 2001, my BRU-ATL Delta was delayed due to some engine problem and I was spending my time looking around and remember seeing Biman DC10 to Dhaka via Delhi. Not sure if they still fly via Delhi on some days of the week?
Shilla From Germany, joined May 2002, 191 posts, RR: 3
Reply 10, posted (10 years 10 months 3 weeks 4 days 3 hours ago) and read 8029 times:
Hey, thanks for all your comments so far.
Biman always shows an interesting prayer video before departure. I´ve never seen this on any other airline before.
Well, I got the right amenity kit....I think I still look like a male passenger
You are right, the feeling was a bit strange when I had to hand out my passport to the ground-staff at DAC, but that is the law if you don´t have the required visa (ok, we spend some euros and managed to organize a city-tour, but normally, you are not allowed to leave your transit hotel).
We changed a small amount at the hotel, just to pay an entrance fee to a museum and to buy some sweets.
Biman has no partner airline (except for a code-share agreement with Qatar Airways) and so they don´t offer any lounge access at BRU. Maybe it´s also not the most important airport for Biman, but you are right, they should improve their ground service.
The invitation to the cockpit was great. I never had such an opportunity on any other airline and I was happy to get one on a very exotic airline like Biman.
I also like the more exotic routes and airlines and so I chose Biman. I had been interested in this company for a long time. Booking was made via Devriesreizen.nl (a couple of other passengers onboard booked their tickets there, too), the total fare was about 740 € .
Maybe I´ll write about that hotel story later on - the city itself was very interesting, although totally polluted and noisy.
It was a non-stop flight BRU-DAC. They don´t stop at DEL anymore on flights from Europe.
Air India used their B747-300C "Narasimha Varman" on the BKK-NRT-BKK route. They had offered the cheapest fare, so I chose them (Y-Class). I´m thinking about writing this trip-report next.
Of course I would fly Biman again, but as I mentioned in my report, I will get a visa and book a room at the Sheraton hotel next time
On my flight back from DAC to BRU, there were some non-indian passengers in Maslin Class, but I think I´ve been the only one on the inbound trip (there were some passengers flying Economy).
Mehtabrahman From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2002, 228 posts, RR: 1
Reply 11, posted (10 years 10 months 3 weeks 3 days 20 hours ago) and read 7944 times:
Wonderful trip report, Shilla!
Its heartening to read a positive and unbiased trip report about Biman after a very loooong while!
Cant believe you were put up in such a crap hotel as 'Blue Bell'; until now, I thought they put economy passengers in Purbani Hotel in Dhaka (a passable 3 star hotel) and business class pax in the Sheraton or Sonargaon. Hmm. I must have been misinformed.
Zia is a total dump, I agree. But it did surprise me it took you half an hour to reach the transit desk, as the airport is quite small. You were probably lost or didnt notice the directions (dont blame you for that though )
Biman certainly has to improve, but it is not too bad either. I personally like Biman a lot, and am glad you do too!
Shilla From Germany, joined May 2002, 191 posts, RR: 3
Reply 12, posted (10 years 10 months 3 weeks 3 days 19 hours ago) and read 7932 times:
Hehe, Mehtab, thanks.
I guess you misunderstood it...I waited for 30 minutes at the transit desk - I found it quickly as Zia indeed isn´t very big and the simple signs are helping, too.
Blue Bell is not the only hotel Biman uses, I know. But I don´t believe that they offer a room at the Sheraton for their Business-Class customers (which is extremely expensive compared to other countries). Purbani sounds familiar to me, I think a passenger told me that he had been put into that hotel on one of his trips with Biman. Must have been a lot better than "Blue Bell".
My next flight to Asia might be on Biman again....let´s see