I’m pleased to report that Biman Bangladesh Airlines exceeded expectations onboard after a very forgettable ground experience.
I already wrote about my transit experience: let’s fast forward to where I left off, stepping into the departures terminal. Check-in desks are ordered by flight in Dhaka, meaning I found the check-in area specifically designated for flight 001 to London.
Lines were long even in the business class area and I waited 35 minutes to reach the counter. After presenting my passport, the check-in agent (40+ male, just like every single airport worker I encountered in Dhaka) typed for awhile, picked up his phone, then told me he could not find my ticket.
He directed me over to the ticketing office at the far end of the terminal. I walked over and presented a note scrawled in Bengali to the ticketing agent. He took my passport and printed out a copy of my itinerary. I brought it back to the check-in desk and the agent took it and began typing again.
He still could not find my reservation…
I suggested that he call the transit desk, because they had no trouble finding my reservation the previous night.
“Oh, you’re transit?”
“You need to go over to Counter #4.”
So I walked over to Counter #4. Apparently the Biman check-in system cannot reprint boarding passes, because my boarding pass was waiting for me at Counter #4 along with a lounge invitation. It would have been nice to have been told the night before to go to the special transit counter…I noticed at the other check-in desk that passengers were receiving fast-track cards for London Heathrow. But upon asking for one, I was told there was no such thing…
I was escorted to passport control then stamped out of the country. There is no security check in Dhaka prior to your gate. I proceeded upstairs and visited the Maslin Lounge, which I wrote about yesterday.
I left the Maslin Lounge early, wanting to be among the first to board, but it was not necessary…the flight was delayed an hour. There was no posted notice of the delay (even the monitors at the gate said “on time”) but the massive and slow-moving security queue made it obvious we would not leave on time.
Boarding began about 45 minutes after scheduled takeoff. I figured this Biman whole experience was a mistake, but things changed for the better once I stepped onboard.
Biman Bangladesh Airlines 001
Dhaka (DAC) – London (LHR)
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Depart: 9:55 AM
Arrive: 5:55 PM
Duration: 11hr, 0min
Seat: 4A (Business Class)
Biman operates a rather dense 777-300ER, with 35 business class and 384 economy class seats. I began to snap pictures of the cabin upon boarding, but was told to stop (I outlined what happened here). Thankfully, I already had plenty.
Biman Bangladesh Business Class Seat
Biman’s business class seat is not lie-flat. The seat is certainly last-generation, comfortable for lounging but less comfortable for sleeping. Watch out for middle seats in the center section: the configuration is 2-3-2.
In-seat power and USB port are available. The seat reclines to about 135º and a footrest manually flips up to stop you from sliding down. If the footrest only could be raised further, it would be a much better seat for sleeping.
Having said that, I found the seat very comfortable and as always seems to be the case (though counterintuitive on daytime flights without lie-flat beds), I enjoyed a multi-hour nap between meal services.
The blanket and pillow are not great — something you’d expect in economy class on a top-tier airline — but I’ll say this: I kept myself wrapped in it the entire flight. The cabin was not just cool, but cold. I’ll take that over a hot cabin because it is easier to bundle up than undress…
Biman Bangladesh Business Class Amenity Kit
An amenity kit was waiting in each seat. Contents included:
- Eye mask
- Ear plugs
- Body Lotion
Although its contents were basic, it was better than nothing.
Biman Bangladesh Business Class Dining
Dining was a most pleasant surprise on this flight, though perhaps only in theory. Biman offers an a-la-carte dining service with meals on demand (at least according to the menu). Having said that, actual service resembled two formal meal services and I did not see any passengers ordering food between meals.
A cold towel and juice were offered prior to takeoff:
Here’s the menu:
To mix things up a bit, I thought I would start with breakfast (it was still morning after all) and then have a proper Bangladeshi meal prior to landing. Remembering what happened on a recent United flight, I should have just gone with the flow and had lunch like everyone else.
Service began with a shrimp appetizer, cold garlic bread, and green salad.
Next up came a soup course, today a creamy mushroom.
My main course arrived: the eggs looked nice, but you can bet I didn’t touch that sausage. I noticed passengers around me received beautiful plates of Bangladeshi food and I immediately regretted my choice, though the eggs tasted good.
After dinner, a cheese plate was offered followed by a cherry tart. I took a chance ordering cappuccino, figuring it would be powdered…and it was.
About two hours out of London, a second meal service began. This time I ordered chicken, though instead of being served a Bangladeshi chicken with rice dish, I seemed to receive a “western” chicken dish with a small quiche tart and what tasted like sesame-covered croutons. Again, a good meal though I was disappointed to miss out on a true Bangladeshi dish.
I had expected serving to be like Pakistan Airlines or Air India, a sort of buffet style from a cart. That was not the case. All meals were brought out (on trays) from the galley. No carts were in the aisle, even for beverage service. But a cart did roll down at the end of the flight with coffee/tea and whole fruit.
Biman Bangladesh Business Class IFE
The safety video included a short “propaganda” piece that nicely highlighted the gender diversity of Biman Bangladesh Airlines.
The IFE movie choices were identical to my Biman flight from Bangkok to Dhaka the previous day. English choices were limited, but there were still about 20 English films. TV, music, and games were also available. Biman does not offer onboard wi-fi.
Many carriers provide “noise cancelling headphones” that are of poor quality. Biman actually provides comfortable and functional noice canceling headphones.
Perhaps that is why it includes this note with the headphones:
Biman Bangladesh Business Class Service
Service was good for the most part. The ladies did most of the work, though the purser constantly strolled through the cabin “managing”. Everyone smiled and I felt welcomed aboard, even though I was never addressed by name.
I issued my conversation with the crew here. They were very happy to pose for the following pictures:
One point of criticism: meals should be unwrapped before being served.
Biman Bangladesh Business Class Lavatory
The business class lavatory was clean and remained clean during the flight.
I chucked at a special video prepared for Biman on bathroom etiquette, warning not to pee on the ground or throw large items into the toilet. But the video was respectful, (rightfully) recognizing that it may have been the first flight for many Bangladeshis who do not have western toilets at home.
Biman Bangladesh Business Class Survey
A survey was offered prior to landing. I was glad to fill it out:
Biman Bangladesh Business Class Price
Had I paid top-dollar for the ticket, I would have been very disappointed, but the ticket was $925. For that price, the value I received made the flight worthwhile.
No, the Biman Bangladesh experience is not like Cathay Pacific or Qatar. But I genuinely did enjoy my flight and can recommend Biman Bangladesh for service between London and Asia in good conscience. Check out their fares next time.