Disrupted flight schedule: Plight of passengers continues to pile up at Dhaka airport

Thousands of people commuting to and from different parts of the world at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA) in Dhaka have been forced to go through a lot of trouble due to the chaos created by the new flight schedules.

The new timings, implemented on December 9, have led to a chaotic situation, with the airport authorities struggling to manage overcrowding while airlines are unable to maintain their flight schedules.

On a visit to the airport, this correspondent found that people were waiting in crammed queues for more than five to six hours without maintaining health guidelines amid the pandemic, only to get inside the airport.

Similar scenes prevailed at the arrival section where passengers were waiting in line in front of the baggage claim belts.

Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury was due to fly to Saudi Arabia with his wife and their three children. 

However, they were waiting at the airport as their flight had been delayed.

Talking to Dhaka Tribune, he said all entrance gates were jam-packed as the queues kept getting longer and longer since the morning. At 10:30am, at least 2,000 people were standing in a queue to get to the boarding area.

Another Saudi-bound passenger, Subrata Das, said the current scene at the airport could be compared to the country's train and launch terminals during Eid vacation. In many cases, the situation was even worse. 

Commuters blamed staff shortages, scarcity of trolleys, inadequate numbers of health officials, and other technical support for their inconvenience.

They said there was no way of knowing which queue was for what purpose. They also held the support staff responsible for lack of cooperation at the airport.

Acknowledging the situation, the airport authority said the issue of passengers not missing their flights was now being given priority. 

As a result, passengers have to arrive at the airport six to seven hours earlier as per instructions.

Trolley trouble

Passengers have complained that they are losing a lot of their valuable time due to the trolley crisis.

People have to fight each other just to get a trolley to carry their luggage.

Taking advantage of the situation, it was seen that some dishonest employees were distributing the trolleys after taking bribes from people.

While passengers were searching frantically for trolleys, a member of the Armed Police Battalion (APBn) was seen taking one for himself, claiming it was for his relative. However, he could not reveal the name of his relative. 

Wishing anonymity, a senior member of the APBn said it was difficult to find such dishonest officials. “But we are alert to tackling such situations.”

Additional Superintendent of Police Md Ziaul Haque, who is in charge of airport security, said the number of inadequate trolleys had created a crisis and was causing chaos at the airport.

Flight schedules disrupted

Twelve airways, including Biman Bangladesh airlines, are currently operating direct flights to and from Dhaka. 

Officials of Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Saudia, Turkish Airlines and Malaysia Airlines said they all had to reschedule their flight slots due to the new operation timings of the airport. 

However, the rush of flights and passengers made it difficult to handle the situation.

They said passengers missed connecting flights to other countries due to take-off from Dhaka airport being delayed.

Under the new schedule, which is set to run till June next year, the airport runway will be closed for eight hours from 12 midnight to 8am for construction work. The schedule is set to become even more hectic.

Dhaka airport Executive Director Group Captain AHM Touhid-ul Ahsan said the airport had to handle the pressure of around 20,000 people at a time now where it used to be only 10,000 to 12,000 before.

The immigration process had also been taking a lot of time due to the added pressure. However, passengers were not missing flights, he added.

“We are providing all kinds of support as per our capacity to make passenger journeys easier,” the airport director added.

State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism M Mahbub Ali last week also admitted the chaotic situation at the airport. 

He had said: “We apologize to the passengers for the inconvenience. But we will mitigate the problem soon.”

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