HSIA Runway Closure: Mismanagement, delays irk passengers

Hundreds of passengers had to endure what they said was mismanagement at the Dhaka airport over the last two days following the introduction of an eight-hour daily closure of the lone runway.

The authorities of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport had assured that the runway closure, which came into force on midnight Thursday, would not cause any significant disruption to flight schedules and passenger handling services, but in reality, just the opposite happened, passengers alleged.

The runway needs to be closed to facilitate the construction and expansion of taxiways for the under-construction third terminal of the airport by the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (Caab). The daily closure will continue till June next year.

Due to the closure, the schedules for at least 12 international flights, operated by Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Saudia Airlines, Turkish Airlines, and Malaysian Airlines, had to be changed.

Some 85-90 flights now depart and touch down at the airport within the 16-hour window. Around 10,000 passengers depart for different destinations from HSIA, sources at the airport said.

Several passengers said they had to suffer delays at the airport due to a lack of manpower, additional ground handling facilities, and other necessary services.

They said signs of mismanagement were everywhere at the airport, including inside and outside the terminal, passenger check-in counters of airlines, immigration, and boarding bridges.

Long queues were seen at the check-in counters, immigration, and other places due to delays of several flights over the last two days.

“Shahjalal airport authorities failed to ensure that the additional requirements at the airport were met. Due to this problem, several flights departed the airport behind schedule, causing suffering to passengers,” said Idris Mia, a Saudi-bound passenger.

Md Harun, another passenger heading for Saudi Arabia, said the authorities should ensure enough check-in counters, boarding bridges, security check-in counters, baggage loading and unloading bays, and other related facilities for the smooth operation of all flights within the 16-hour window. But they were yet to ensure this.

The airport operations will be tougher for the five days from today as the runway will remain closed for an additional two hours (from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm) to enable flight management training under the Air Force as part of preparations for the Victory Day celebrations, sources at the HSIA said.

An official at the HSIA admitted that they are struggling to maintain the new schedule.

“But we have taken measures to ensure required services for the smooth operation of flights,” the official said wishing anonymity.

Sources at the airport said around 13 flights took off in just one and a half hours since 10:30 pm on Thursday, causing problems in airport operations as the authorities couldn’t ensure additional facilities for the passengers and the carriers.

The departure of several of the flights was delayed as the airport authorities could not complete the immigration process of around 2,400 passengers in time, sources at the airport said.

Group Captain AHM Touhid-ul Ahsan, executive director at HSIA, said some problems arose in the first few days of flight operations under the new schedule.

He said the airport authorities have already given directives to the immigration authorities to operate all immigration counters so that passengers can complete their immigration on time.

Different airlines have been demanding the authorities ensure additional check-in counters and other necessary facilities to deal with the pressure of passengers under the new tight schedule.

The authorities have announced that Osmani International Airport in Sylhet will be available for any emergency take-off and landing during the closure of the Dhaka airport runway.