Thursday, 7 July, 2022
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Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport still a mess

Mismanagement, lack of manpower blamed

Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport still a mess

Passenger services at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA) continue to be affected immensely due to mismanagement and lack of manpower and equipment even after two and a half weeks of resuming 24-hour flight operation.

The decision to suspend flights for eight hours per day due to the construction of two high-speed taxiways for the third terminal was lifted on May 1 though the 24-hour flight operation was scheduled to begin on June 10.

Sources at local and foreign airlines have said that flight operations at HSIA is yet to begin in full swing as they have sold tickets for daytime flights in advance and they have no flight schedule from 12:00 am to 8:00 am till June 10.

Meanwhile, continuous delays in flight departure and late release of arriving luggage are causing trouble for the foreign airlines and their passengers.

Stakeholders have blamed Biman Bangladesh Airlines, which is in charge of the airport ground handling, for the mismanagement.

Several officials of local and foreign airlines told the Daily Sun that the national flag carrier is unable to manage the ground handling at the HSIA properly and they have been failing to provide services in time for the shortage of staff and equipment.

“International flights are delayed every day due to delays in the ground handling. Flights even have to wait in the bay areas, in the air or on the taxiway sometimes for one or two hours,” an official of a foreign airline said seeking anonymity.

“Depending on the required services, we have been paying Biman $2,200 to $5,700 for every flight. But we are not getting the services as expected,” the official added.

Sources said members of the Airline Operator Committee (AOC), an association of airlines with flights to Bangladesh, have informed the Ministry of Civil Aviation informally about Biman’s poor service quality but didn’t get any solution yet.

This correspondent visited HSIA on Monday and Tuesday and found that the airport received the highest number of passengers between 8:30 am and 11:00 am. The boarding bridge areas and the customs were full of arriving passengers.

And the stream of departing passengers reached its peak from 7:00 pm which continued till midnight. During this time, officials at the check-in counters and immigration passed a very busy time.

 

When a total of nine international flights took off and landed at HSIA within one hour on Monday morning, passenger services completely collapsed as there were only eight boarding bridges at the airport.

With a shortage of staff and equipment at the boarding bridges, it took long hours to unload luggage from the aircraft and reach those to the belt.

Imran Shahriar arrived from Germany but couldn’t leave the airport as he was yet to receive his luggage.

He said, “My flight landed at 9:00 am but I couldn’t receive my baggage before 11:00 am. How does it feel having to wait for two hours at the airport after a 12-hour journey?”

A senior official of a foreign airline, wishing not to be named, said as the in-charge of ground handling, Biman is responsible for taking care of the passenger check-in counters, boarding, loading and unloading baggage from the aircraft, passenger services, engineering services and ground service equipment.

Six months ago when the authorities had announced that flights would be suspended for eight hours, Biman first felt the pinch of pressure as a chaotic situation was created in and outside the terminal due to a lack of manpower and equipment and proper supervision, but since then Biman has hardly done anything in the last six months to improve its service quality, he said.

According to the Biman authorities, every day 110 to 115 flights of 27 airlines land and take off at HSIA, carrying around 20,000 passengers. Biman has neither an adequate workforce nor equipment to serve such a huge number of passengers and airlines.

HSIA executive director Group Captain Kamrul Islam admitted that it takes a considerable amount of time to get one’s luggage at the luggage belt.

“We have been trying to overcome this situation with our limited resources. Handling the pressure of flights of 24 hours arriving within just 16 hours with the same number of staff is a huge challenge. We are expecting an improvement in the situation by the first week of June,” he said.

Despite repeated attempts, General Manager (airport service) of Biman Bangladesh Azizul Islam couldn’t be reached for a comment on the issue.

A senior official of Biman, however, claimed that the reshuffling of the flight schedule has increased the pressure of flights at HSIA.

We will recruit staff through our routine process, he added.