GMG expands operations to Gulf

GMG Airlines, Bangla-desh's biggest private carrier, will soon start flights to Abu Dhabi and Doha, linking Dhaka and Chittagong, Bangladesh's commercial gateway, before linking them to Muscat and Kuwait by this year, a top official said.

"We also plan to start flights to London and Rome - two European destinations where sizeable non-resident Bangladeshis (NRBs) live by the end of this year," Abdus Sattar, chairman of GMG Group told Gulf News.

The expansion of GMG Airline's operations to the Gulf will help ease growing passenger demand on Gulf-Bangladesh route. Bangla-desh is a major source of contract labourers for the Gulf states, where economic boom is expected to drive the demand for additional manpower. More than half of the 5 million NRBs live in the Gulf.

GMG will soon place firm orders for six Boeing aircraft, valued at $1 billion.

"These include three Boeing 777-300ERs and Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners. Both Boeing and GMG are ready to sign the firm orders. But we are waiting for Bangladesh to join the Capetown Treaty that allows the financiers to acquire assets of the defaulting company in that particular country," he said.

"We expect the government to join the treaty, so that we gain excess to fin-ance from major financiers. The moment we sign the firm orders, we have to make 1 per cent of the value of the deal, which will be $10 million in this case."

GMG launched flights to Dubai last month with a leased Boeing 747. The operation has helped to ease the growing demand for additional traffic on the Dubai-Dhaka route, largely dependent on Emirates, which has benefited from a decline in the operation of Biman, the nearly bankrupt national carrier of Bangladesh.

"We are going to add a second B747 in April which will help us to operate flights to at least two other Gulf destinations."

Passenger demand will jump in June and July and is expected to continue till January next year due to summer vacation, Eid holidays and winter vacations - when additional capacities will be required.

Apart from Emirates, Biman and GMG, Air Arabia, Etihad Airways and RAK Airways are also serving the Bangladesh routes from the UAE. The Bangladesh government has opened up its skies for competition that will allow new airlines to operate into the country.

GMG Airlines, which started operations 10 years ago on Bangladesh's domestic routes, was allowed to fly on international routes in 2005. With 700 employees and seven aircraft in the fleet, the airline last year carried 350,000 passengers including 190,000 on the domestic routes. Its fleet includes three Bombardier Dash 11s, one Boeing 737-800, two McDonald Douglas MD82s and a Boeing 747.

"With growing international operations, we expect the number of passengers to cross 1 million by the end of this year," Abdus Sattar, a former Commonwealth Games gold medallist, said.

The airline made cumulative losses of 650 million taka over the last 10 years.

"However, we recovered 40 million taka last year. So, yes we are now a profitable carrier," he said.

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