The city of Dhaka is becoming an increasingly appealing destination for foreign airlines, as evidenced by a surge in their interest. This heightened attraction is driven by a variety of factors, including economic opportunities, tourism potential, and improved airport infrastructure.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is set to inaugurate the third terminal at Shahjalal International Airport on October 7. However, it’s worth noting that passengers won’t be able to use this terminal until the end of the following year.
Interestingly, the Civil Aviation Authority (BABIC) has received applications from at least 12 foreign airlines, including major players like British Airways and Air France, expressing their intent to begin flights to Bangladesh. BABIC’s Chairman, M. Mofidur Rahman, confirmed these airline offers and indicated that they would be allowed to operate flights once the third terminal becomes operational. Additionally, experts suggest that domestic airlines could also benefit from the third terminal to enhance their capacity.
Among the foreign airlines seeking to operate in Bangladesh are Ethiopian Airlines, Fitz Air from Sri Lanka, Royal Jordanian Airlines, Korean Air, Wits Air from the United Arab Emirates, Garuda Air from Indonesia, Iraqi Airlines, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), Uzbekistan Airways, and Riyadh Air from Saudi Arabia.
Currently, Shahjalal Airport hosts four domestic and 30 foreign airlines, with around 150 daily flights. Biman Bangladesh Airlines and US Bangla Airlines operate international routes, while Novo Air and Air Astra focus primarily on domestic destinations.
The expansion project for Shahjalal Airport commenced in December 2019, approved by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) on October 24, 2017. Initially estimated at 13,610 crore taka, the project’s cost has since increased to approximately 21,398 crore taka, with a significant portion financed by the Japanese cooperation agency JICA.
The third terminal, designed by architect Rohani Bahrain, will cover an area of 230,000 square meters and is being implemented by Japanese manufacturer Simuji and Korean company Samsung. Once completed, it is expected to increase the airport’s annual passenger capacity from around 70 lakhs to nearly 2 crores.
The third terminal will feature 37 aircraft parking spaces, 12 new boarding bridges, 11 body scanners, 16 baggage belts, and automated immigration management. Additionally, it will have a separate cargo complex, 115 check-in counters, and a connection to the Metrorail. Ground handling services will be overseen by a Japanese organization.
Despite the enthusiasm for foreign airlines’ interest in the new terminal, experts emphasize the need for domestic airlines like Biman and US Bangla to expand their capacity. Currently, foreign airlines control 88 percent of Bangladesh’s aviation market, while domestic airlines hold only 22 percent.
Aviation expert ATM Nazrul Islam highlights the importance of careful slot management to prevent flight jams on the runway and suggests that the third terminal could provide opportunities for all airlines.
In conclusion, the opening of the third terminal at Shahjalal International Airport is anticipated to bring significant changes to the aviation landscape in Bangladesh, with both domestic and foreign airlines eyeing opportunities to expand their operations.