The management of Biman Bangladesh Airlines has finally taken an effective move to modernise ground-handling services at Shahjalal International Airport by teaming up with an international company.
“Biman is preparing a request for proposal [RFP] to invite international companies to team up with it for modernisation of the ground-handling services,” said a top official at the civil aviation ministry.
The RFP would soon be published in newspapers and the Biman website, said the official asking not to be named.
The move comes as the government seriously wants to improve baggage and cargo handling at the country's prime airport. Ground handling of aircraft is now entirely dependent on Biman staff, who load and unload cargo and luggage manually.
The airport's ground handling is considered as one of the worst in the region.
Under the modernisation initiative, baggage and cargo handling would be fully automated, new equipment required to that would be purchased and necessary workforce would be recruited.
Former Biman managing director Kevin John Steele had earlier projected that the modernisation move would require around $10-15 million.
Currently, passengers sometimes have to wait up to 90 minutes to get their luggage after landing. If modernisation of ground-handling process is done properly, the passengers would get their luggage in 15 minutes.
A top official of Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (Caab) said Bangladesh had been witnessing an annual 8 to 9 percent growth in air passengers and 13 percent growth in cargo.
So, automation for baggage and cargo handling would increase the earning massively, the official observed.
Last year, Kevin took an initiative to team up with international firms for baggage and cargo handling. He also invited a request for information, prompting four globally renowned companies to show their interest in the joint venture, visit the airport and make assessments.
The companies were Switzerland-based Swissport International, Turkish company Çelebi Ground Handling Inc, Dubai-based Dnata, and Group Europe Handling.
The move, however, remained stalled as the Biman management was waiting for the prime minister's nod since the national flag carrier's employees led by Biman Sramik League had been against the move.
The move got momentum after the prime minister at a meeting with the civil aviation ministry in May gave the go-ahead for the joint venture.
The company that would become Biman's partner would get the running cost and a portion of their capital investment by charging a management fee, Biman officials said.
The ground and cargo handling would continue to be entirely owned by Biman, they added.