New flights to Bangladesh from Manchester Airport were formally launched last night to much fanfare.

Biman Bangladesh Airlines celebrated the inaugural flight to Dhaka and Sylhet at an event attended by civic leaders and representatives from the Bangladeshi community. A special dinner celebration at the Radisson Blu Hotel followed the official launch at the airport.

The new route is set to be popular as it cuts out a long drive from Dhaka to Sylhet - an area where many in the region travel to.

Bangladesh’s national airline will operate the routes from Manchester to Dhaka and Sylhet on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, with a flight time of 10 hours. 

The carrier will utilise two brand-new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, with 24 seats in business class and 247 in economy. 

Economy fares start from £580 return and business class return fares are available from around £1,500.  The service will fly from Manchester to Dhaka via Sylhet and will then return to Manchester from Dhaka directly.

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Passengers were welcomed by a team of drummers and dancers at Terminal 2 and (below) the Manchester Airport choir were on at check-in

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The service comes on the back of a delegation led by Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham travelling to both cities in October.

In the coming months, delegations from Dhaka and Sylhet are also set to visit Manchester to explore opportunities in a range of business, cultural and educational fields. 

Speaking to Asian Image on the night Andrew Cowan, CEO of Manchester Airport, said, "Every year we do a lot of business development work and we have been trying to encourage Dhaka an Slyhet and Biman to fly to Manchester

"We have such a strong Bangladeshi community here so there is a clear demand for it. The airline has now seen there is a case to have a direct flight and it made sense for them and it is the reason we are launching that today.

"With any long haul flight you start off with three or four flights. Depending upon how busy they are they start increasing the frequency."

Mr Cowan who was part of the delegation that travelled to Bangladesh at the end said earlier,  “There is no better way to mark the start of a New Year than with the launch of an exciting new long-haul route from Manchester Airport like this one.

“This will build on the foundations laid by the successful Mayoral visit in November, during which the desire to forge closer ties was clear to see and I want to thank Andy, Coun Jabbar and our other partners for their support in securing the return of this important route.”

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Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, is a vibrant megacity with over 20 million inhabitants in its wider urban area. It accounts for around 35 per cent of the country’s economy and its Mughal-era Old Quarter is packed with historic and cultural sights.

Sylhet is the largest city in Bangladesh’s north-east, with 800,000 people living in its metropolitan area. A large proportion of Northern England’s Bangladeshi population can trace its roots back to the Sylhet region, which is home to some of the oldest tea estates in the country.

There are up to 300,000 people of Bangladeshi origin in northern parts of the UK, from Birmingham to Scotland, for whom this service will be their closest direct route to Bangladesh.

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The new route is set to be popular as it cuts out an 8 hour drive from Dhaka for visitors wanting to visit Sylhet.

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “When I visited Bangladesh last year, one of the main missions for our trip was to re-establish a direct air connection between Manchester and Bangladesh. It is wonderful to see it actually starting service and we are confident that this link will bring trade, cultural and educational benefits to Greater Manchester and the rest of the country. 

"Just as importantly, it should provide a vital travel route for the friends and families of people of Bangladeshi heritage living in Greater Manchester and further afield.

“I will never forget my first trip to Bangladesh and have agreed to set up new partnerships with my counterpart Mayors in Sylhet and Dhaka to focus on a wide range of development and trade issues as well as collaboration on tourism, sport and culture. I am certain that the growing cooperation between our cities and countries will only increase demand for this direct service.

“I want to welcome travellers to Greater Manchester and the wider North of England – you are welcome and we look forward to sharing our wonderful part of the world with you.”

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The first Biman Bangladesh flight lands at Manchester Airport

Biman’s Regional Manager, Debabrota Mallick, said: “A direct flight from Manchester to Sylhet, and Manchester to Dhaka has been on our radar for quite some time. 

"As part of our business strategy, our main focus has been to connect Manchester to both these thriving parts of Bangladesh. 

"Not only was this due to high demand from the Bangladeshi community in the North, but we also saw a good opportunity to increase tourism and business potential which has been increasing year-on-year.

“After announcing the resumption of the Manchester flight, we saw the first two weeks of flights being completely sold out. We are very pleased to see such an amazing response, and more Bangladeshi passengers continuing to book through Biman Airlines.”