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1.38 

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Somewhere Over Here Here
It got me there
Apr 30, 2006 04:52 PM 6728 Views
(Updated Apr 30, 2006 04:52 PM)

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Just recently I experienced something that I never thought would happen: A Bangladesh Biman Airways flight was on time!


Now before you think I am being unnecessarily sarcastic, my four previous flights with Biman were all delayed- One was delayed over twelve hours and another two were delayed over six hours. One was only four hours late. There was one other flight that I could have taken, but it was cancelled.


Talking with others at the airports I discovered that, just as other airlines have ''frequent flyers'', Biman have ''Do-all-possible-to-avoid-ers''. These are people who would fly via the ends of the earth to avoid Biman - not because they don't like the staff or the service, but because they want to know what time they will leave and arrive.


Who Are They?


Biman operate a fleet of ageing Airbus A310s and old DC10s on most routes and Fokker F28s for domestic flights. The A310s are only around 12 years old but the DC10s average nearly 25 years old, some of the oldest still flying, and the Fokkers are even older. According to newspaper reports, at the end of September '05 a DC10 was not allowed to depart from New York until 17 faults had been rectified.


So how was check in ?


In Dhaka, I've stood there waiting to get the person's attention; I've been ignored; told to wait a moment, while they process another four or five people. Once I insisted on being cheerful with the guy; I even managed to make eye contact! He tried hard to keep up the bored expression but I wore him down and he ended up fairly pleasant and even cracked a joke - though he did look a bit self conscious as he did it!


I went through passport control into the large, spacious and dull terminal and found the Biman Airways business class lounge. Despite there being a flight departing soon, they were not expecting passengers - as I got there, someone was letting another chap in so I followed him inside, but nearly left again immediately. The room was small, with small, high windows. The walls were cheap wooden panels, badly fitted, and it was furnished with battered armchairs and tatty tables crammed together. Eventually, over the next twenty minutes, a man brought in a few plates of sandwiches and samosas. Tea and coffee was available to make yourself from hot water, tea bags and sachets.


Eventually someone came in and called for boarding.


On Board


The cabin design appears to be from the seventies, if not the sixties. The seats seats are upholstered in orange and green, with a floral pattern. This is so striking that you don't even notice the carpet, which is probably no bad thing.


The Fokker aircraft are all in once class, economy. The Airbuses and DC10s offer a business class, but it is not the same on all aircraft. I have been on one where the seats were large and quite comfortable, though the leg rest was broken. On another the seats were somewhat smaller and less comfortable, but the legrest was still broken (Okay, there is some consistency!).


There are movies shown on the longhaul flights, on an old-style overhead screen.


So how was the service?


After the dreary check in and dreary lounge, I was expecting dreary on board service but, with the exception of one or two of the crew, that was not to be. They were mostly quite pleasant, always polite and in some cases quite cheerful.


In business class there is a glass of juice or water before departure. After departure, the meal is served quite quickly.


The food is the best part of Biman. On all flights, the food has been in decent portions, fresh and actually quite tasty. There was the normal salad and a choice of two main courses, one of which of course was a curry which was quite tasty and came with rice and some vegetables. These were served on the tray with real cutlery.


Drinks offered are just juices and soft drinks. I have not seen any sign of alcohol being offered, but I did read on a website that wine is available on request. Unfortunately I read it after my last flight with them!


In economy class on the short flights, they distribute little boxes with a sandwich, slice of cake and a can of cola.


I have had to use the toilet on board a couple of times. They have seemed fairly clean, though once it was quite unpleasantly smelly. On one occasion I could not find anything to dry my hands on, there were no paper towels or even tissues.


Summary


They got me there, but I did not really enjoy the experience. If I go to Bangladesh again I will try to avoid them.


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