The construction of a refueling station at Sylhet’s Osmani International airport is still incomplete rendering direct Hajj flights to Jeddah uncertain.
In March this year, the airport authority said it would be able to operate international flights from June.
Then, Project Director Aminul Haq said around 70% of the work had been completed as the construction of three of the total five section of the station had finished.
The project involving Tk51.18 crore began in January 2012 under the supervision of Padma Oil, a state-owned petroleum company.
The project was scheduled to end in June last year, but it was delayed because of several reasons. The deadline was later extended to June of this year, increasing the budget to over Tk53.15 crore.
“Lack of refueling station is the main obstacle for operating direct flight from Sylhet to Jeddah,” said Md Akbor Hossain Howlader, commercial officer of the Biman Bangladesh Airlines, Sylhet Office.
Airport sources said about 7,000 pilgrims would perform Hajj from Sylhet region this year while the figures was 5,500 last year.
The Bangladesh Biman operates two transit flights (Sylhet-Dhaka-Jeddah) every year except 2007 when direct flights operated from Sylhet airport to Jeddah airport.
Later, the direct flights have been suspended for a lack of refueling station at Sylhet airport.
Since then, the Hajj Association of Bangladesh (HAB) has been demanding seven direct flights from Sylhet Airport to Jeddah airport. Transit flights take more time and is inconvenient for the pilgrims, the HAB sources said, adding that it was necessary to operate direct flights to make it easier for travelling pilgrims.
Johirul Kobir Choudhury, president of HAB Sylhet region, said: “Regarding seven direct flights, we have placed our demands to the Biman authority a few days ago.
“As the Biman authority has yet to respond, we are feeling a certain sense of uncertainty.”
The Bangladesh Biman should take immediate steps in this regard as thousands of people are going to perform Hajj from this region this year.
He also threatened that the association would go on tough movement to press home the demand for launching direct hajj flights from Sylhet to Jeddah.
Mentioning refueling stations as a problem, Biman Official Md Akbor Hossain Howlader said: “It is not possible to fulfill the HAB’s demand. Now we are spending time on seat arrangements. Within a few days we will meet with HAB leaders.”
The announcement to make Sylhet Osmani Airport as the third international airport came in December 20, 1998. The airport’s digitalisation process started in 2004. Later, international flight at the airport kicked off in March 12, 2006 which however stopped after a few days since there was no refuelling system.
The refuelling station project started in 2012 after the decision of its construction was taken in 2010, following the promise of Sylhet 1 constituency Awami League candidate Abul Maal Abdul Muhith in the parliamentary election in 2008.