Photo © Wasim Choudhury
This marks the first time a private Bangladeshi passenger carrier will fly internationally. GMG Airlines has been flying on domestic routes since April 1998. They fly from Dhaka (DAC) to Chittagong, Sylhet (ZYL), Jessore (JSR), Barisal(BZL) and Cox's Bazar (CXB) (with a stop in Chittagong).
In Jan 2004, the government of Bangladesh gave GMG the rights to fly from Dhaka to Chennai (MAA), Colombo (CMB) and from Chittagong to Chiang Mai (CNX). Unfortunately, most of these routes GMG deemed most of these routes to be not profitable. After some intense negotiations, in July the government finally allowed GMG to fly to CCU , but only from CGP.
The service will be with GMG’s Dash-8. It has 2 Dash 8-100s and one Dash 8-300.
GMG is hoping that current negotiations between the Bangladeshi and Indian government will lead to the opening up of routes between India and Bangladesh, much like what has happened between India and Sri Lanka. The airline hopes to start DAC-CCU, DAC-Delhi (DEL) soon, and also to Kathmandu (KTM) soon. On the long term, the airline would like to fly to the Middle East as well.
Photo © Wasim Choudhury
Incidentally, Chittagong Airport was renovated with a loan from the Japanese Overseas Development fund. The total cost was US$100 million. However, for the first two years, the airport was highly under-utilized and thus far the airport’s revenue’s have fallen far short of operating costs, not to mention interest accrued on the loan. This plight may be partly due to the government’s refusal to give rights to the Middle East to most carriers; hence the airport is handicapped from attracting additional traffic. However, in perhaps a sign of change or that of clever positioning, Phuket Airlines managed to secure three flights a week from Chittagong to Dubai (DXB).
Two foreign airlines have already pulled out of Chittagong: Indian Airlines (with 2 flights to CCU) and Silk Air (with two flights to Singapore (SIN)). Phuket suspended service for some time, but now have returned. Thai Airways has had consistent service and even upgraded this spring from a Boeing 737-400 to an Airbus A300-600. In May, Thai also won the contract to run Chittagong Airport. In May of 2004, Thai Airways also won a bid to operate the airport for 10 years. Hopefully, under the management of the airline, the airport can secure a more profitable future.
As for GMG, it marks yet another milestone for a carrier that has had to fight off in a very unbalanced playing field. We can only hope it will succeed internationally as it has in the domestic market.
Wasim / Planemannyc
[Edited 2004-09-01 04:37:00]