TBT (Throwback Thursday) In Aviation History: GMG Airlines

Photo: Steven Byles/Flickr (Creative Commons)

With the Indian market on the rise and Bangladesh being dominated by the flag carrier Biman, a privately owned airline in the smaller country of Bangladesh seemed like a bet that could pay off. In 1998, the goal was achieved as GMG Airlines was formed with two De Havilland DHC-8-100 aircraft which would allow the carrier to fly domestic routes out of Dhaka. The carrier made slow gains, with two more De Havilland aircraft joining in 2000 and 2002 to allow for the carrier to allow more frequencies and routes in the Bangladesh market. The airline stabilized for the next few years, focusing on making profit and not pressuring the government-backed carrier in the international market.

However, by 2006 the Bangladesh carrier had started looking for international connections to take their airline to the next level. McDonnell-Douglas MD-83s were brought in to fly new service from Dhaka to Chittagong and Kolkata. Kolkata was the first international destination for GMG but it was far from the last; the following year saw the Boeing 737-800 enter the fleet as a route to Kuala Lumpur were added. The airline followed up on their Kuala Lumpur route one year later with the arrival of a leased Boeing 747-300 to start routes to Abu Dhabi and Karachi. Unfortunately, the Boeing 747 arrived at a poor time with fuel prices in Bangladesh skyrocketed leaving the airline bleeding cash and forced to return the jet after just half a year of service.

The rise in fuel prices caught GMG completely off guard and suddenly the carrier was struggling to stay in the sky. All jet aircraft were removed with the exception of one MD-80 to keep the Kolkata route operational. Additionally, all other international destinations were slashed to keep the airline afloat. The airline survived thanks to a large cash injection by new investor Beximco Group, who allowed the airline to break even again.

The reinvigorated GMG Airlines rebranded into a more colorful airline, removing the navy and gold livery and replacing it with a large array of warmer colors with various shades of yellow, green and red being applied to the nose and tail of the fleet. The Boeing 767-300 was brought in to replace the aging MD-80 and take over for flights to Kolkata.

As for the domestic routes, those would continue to be handled by the fleet of Bombardier DHC-8-100s that the airline began with. The MD-80 would take over the Kuala Lumpur route, which would later be restarted. Dubai was added as a second Boeing 767-300 was added to the fleet in 2011 to help the airline expand back to its original form.

But it was not meant to be for GMG Airlines as the airline had continually lost money after the Beximco bailout and by the end of 2011 it showed. GMG slowly suspended all international routes except Kolkata as the Boeing 767-300s were removed from the fleet over time. The airline grounded its fleet in March 2012 citing that the airline lacked sufficient funding to continue and would look for a more economical fleet of aircraft as a way to restart operations.

However, GMG was never helped by the Bangladesh government, whose high interest on airfare surcharge left the airline with Tk70 crore (roughly $8.9 million USD) in interest totals on top of the actual Tk40 crore (roughly $5.0 million USD) it already owed.

GMG’s aircraft slowly left the fleet as the airline couldn’t find an economic replacement. By 2013, GMG was out of aircraft and out of money and by 2014 GMG ceased to exist. Most of the aircraft have found new homes with most ending up in the American desert for parts. The lone remembrance of GMG Airlines at Dhaka is a McDonnell-Douglas MD-80, which is still in the old livery, parked at a hangar on the northern end of the airfield.

Ian McMurtry

Ian McMurtry

Ian has been an avgeek since 2004 when he started spotting US Airways Express planes at Johnstown Airport in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. He now lives in Wichita and enjoys spotting planes in Kansas City and Wichita as well as those flying at high altitudes over his home. He is a pilot with more than 40 hours of experience behind a Cessna 172, Diamond DA-20, and Piper PA-28. He flies Southwest Airlines on most of his domestic flights and Icelandair when flying to Europe. Ian’s route map spans from Iceland and Alaska in the north to St. Maarten in the south. He is a student at Wichita State University, where he will study aerospace and mechanical engineering.
Ian McMurtry