American Boeing and French Airbus competes in grabbing sales contracts in Bangladesh

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Biman Airlines, Boeing, Airbus

A fierce rivalry has emerged between US-based Boeing and Europe’s Airbus over Bangladesh’s aviation sector. Both commercial aircraft producers are competing vigorously to secure a deal with the state-run Biman Airlines, which is seeking to expand its fleet. The competition has intensified as both companies vie to supply Biman with new wide-body jets.

Boeing has emphasized the importance of a “full and fair evaluation” of its proposal, while Airbus remains confident of finalizing a deal with Biman. “We want to see a full and fair evaluation of our proposal by Biman before any final purchase decision is made,” stated Boeing’s visiting vice president Ryan Weir, during a meeting with a select group of aviation reporters on Tuesday. Weir mentioned that he recently met with senior officials from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the Ministry of Civil Aviation, and Biman, who assured him that a thorough evaluation of Boeing’s proposal would be conducted.

Meanwhile, French ambassador to Dhaka, Marie MASDUPUY, expressed optimism about the ongoing discussions between Airbus and Biman. Speaking to diplomatic reporters on Wednesday morning, MASDUPUY said, “The discussions are progressing well regarding the purchase of Airbus wide-body passenger and freighter planes. We are hopeful that the deal will be finalized soon and are very confident about it.”

Civil aviation and tourism minister Faruk Khan also commented on the situation, telling BSS that he had instructed Biman to thoroughly evaluate both proposals and choose the one most beneficial for the national airline. “We will accept the proposal that offers the most advantages to us,” he said briefly.

The tug-of-war between Boeing and Airbus has been ongoing for over a year since the Bangladesh government decided to acquire more wide-body planes for Biman’s fleet, which is currently dominated by Boeing aircraft. Airbus entered the scene last year following a Joint Communique signed in London between the UK’s Minister of State in the Department of Business and Trade, Lord Dominic Johnson, and Bangladesh Prime Minister’s Private Industry and

Investment Adviser, Salman F Rahman. This Communique included the purchase of 10 A350 aircraft, including two A350 Freighters, to establish an aviation and trade partnership aimed at developing Bangladesh’s aviation sector.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Dhaka in September last year further solidified Airbus’s position, with Macron announcing that Bangladesh had committed to ordering 10 aircraft from Airbus. In response, Boeing stepped up its efforts to retain its stronghold in Bangladesh’s aviation market, proposing to supply more wide-body aircraft to Biman. “We have had a proposal on the table for years now,” said Boeing’s vice president Weir, adding that they had offered to sell four Boeing 787 Dreamliner passenger planes and two Boeing 777-300ER cargo planes.

Weir noted that the Airbus proposal had already been evaluated by Biman. “We are advocating for a fair evaluation of our products,” he emphasized. During a “meet and greet” session with reporters at a city hotel, Boeing officials, including Managing Director of Commercial Marketing for Eurasia and the Indian Subcontinent Ashwin Naidu and Sales Director Kaanthi Bhuvanagiri, assured that the Export-Import Bank of the United States (US EXIM Bank) would provide adequate credit to Biman to procure the new US-made aircraft.

Weir further revealed that Boeing’s proposal included a consultancy service at no cost to the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) to help upgrade its status from category 2 to category 1 by the US Federal Aviation Administration. This upgrade would enable Bangladeshi airlines to operate flights to the United States. Naidu claimed that Boeing 787s could generate about US$5 million more profit per plane annually for Biman due to their fuel efficiency and reduced maintenance costs, which are approximately 30 percent lower compared to competitors.

Naidu also highlighted the competitive delivery timing and cost-effectiveness of Boeing products. He pointed out that if Biman opted for a mixed fleet, incorporating Airbus aircraft alongside existing Boeing ones, it would incur an additional cost of nearly $150 million over the next 20 years. These costs would arise from the need for additional airplane and engine spares, spare parts, tooling, training, and higher pilot salaries and administrative overheads due to having multiple pilot groups.

In contrast, Airbus President and Managing Director in India and South Asia Remi Maillard argued that Biman is not currently benefiting from fleet commonality. He noted that Biman’s fleet consists of different versions of six Boeing 777-300ER, four Boeing 787-8, two Boeing 787-9, six Boeing 737, and five Dash 8-400 aircraft, which do not share a common cockpit design, thus negating the benefits of “cross-crew qualification” training.

Maillard claimed that the A350-900, which can seat 300-410 passengers, offers the lowest cost per seat of any large wide-body aircraft. This new version of the A350 provides a 25 percent advantage in fuel burn, operating costs, and CO2 emissions compared to previous-generation planes. He asserted that the A350 can fly profitably from Dhaka to any major port worldwide, with a range of up to 9,700 nautical miles, while fuel costs account for 40 to 50 percent of an airline’s operating expenditure.

Both Boeing and Airbus have proposed long-term partnerships with Bangladesh to support its ambition of becoming an aviation hub. These partnerships would include technology transfer and technical support for Bangladesh’s aviation educational institutes.

High-ranking officials from both aviation giants have noted the significant market potential in Bangladesh, predicting that the fleet size in the country is expected to triple over the next 20 years due to its robust economic growth. As the rivalry between Boeing and Airbus intensifies, the final decision by Biman will significantly shape the future landscape of Bangladesh’s aviation sector.

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