Biman Bangladesh Airlines (BG, Dhaka) is planning to increase its fleet from the current 18 aircraft to 50 by 2030 as part of its network expansion including routes to the United States and Japan, Chief Executive Mokabbir Hossain told local daily New Age.

Mokabbir underlined in an interview that the state-owned airline would consider all manufacturers despite its current reliance on Boeing equipment.

Short-term fleet adjustments will include the replacement of two leased Dash 8-400s with three aircraft of the same type owned by the airline, which are due to deliver by June 2020.

"As our lease for the two B737-800s will end soon, we need two more similar airliners to carry the same passengers," Mokabbir added.

According to the ch-aviation fleets advanced module, Biman currently operates six B737-800s, of which two are owned, and four are dry-leased (two each from GECAS and ALAFCO).

The airline also operates four B777-300(ER)s, four B787-8s, and two B787-9s.

In terms of Biman's network plans, Mokabbir confirmed plans to launch 5th-freedom services extending the recently inaugurated route from Dhaka via Manchester Int'l to Toronto Pearson and New York. On the Asian front, the airline is planning to enter the Chinese market with flights to Guangzhou, expand its Indian presence by launching services to Chennai, and restart operations to Tokyo Narita.

Bangladesh recently signed an extended bilateral air traffic agreement with Japan which grants Biman 5th-freedom rights on services to Japan and beyond. At the same time, the deal removes the obligation to operate flights via a technical stop in Thailand, which was enshrined in the previous version. Mokabbir said that Biman nonetheless planned to operate 2x weekly to Tokyo via Bangkok Suvarnabhumi (utilising the fifth-freedom rights) and 1x weekly directly.

Mokabbir added that fleet growth would also allow Biman to look at more new routes from points other than Dhaka. He indicated that the Bangladeshi flag carrier could launch direct services from Sylhet to London, as well as direct domestic routes bypassing the capital, between Sylhet, Cox's Bazar, and Jessore.

The airline's strategy also includes adding freighter aircraft. While Mokabbir did not elaborate on the type of aircraft the carrier was eyeing, he said that Biman would focus on connecting South-East Asia with the Middle East via Dhaka.

Biman is also planning to expand its MRO facilities at Dhaka airport and offer services for third-party customers.