The Singapore-based budget airline Scoot is the latest foreign operator that has just announced its decision to pull out of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA). The reason given to stop its Bangladesh operations is that it is apparently not cost-effective to operate a route here.
Indeed, Scoot joins a host of other airlines, including better-known airlines like British Airways, Korean Air, Dutch KLM, Etihad Airways—a total of 10 airlines—which have wrapped up their business here. So many airlines pulling out of business in the capital is going to have a dampening effect on our efforts to turn HSIA into a regional hub for aviation and impede efforts to upgrade our international rating.
The complaints against ground handling at HSIA aren't new. Foreign operators have been pointing out that the costs of operating in Bangladesh are higher than those at other airports in the region. We are informed that airlines are not charged anything in countries like Malaysia and Singapore. On top of it all, when it comes to handling baggage and cargo, HSIA's efficiency is lacking leading to the process being time-consuming. In an industry where time literally means money, inefficiency has no place in an international airport. The price of fuel is also apparently higher in our airport than elsewhere and the cumulative effect of all the extra charges has landed us in a situation where HSIA is losing business.
While there will always be those who will find excuses to not initiate meaningful change, the time is ripe for a comprehensive assessment to be conducted on HSIA to find out the problems in terms of infrastructure, manpower and how ground handling operations can be streamlined. It is obvious that the current scenario bodes ill for HSIA's future unless we are willing to face up to the fact that things need to change to boost operational efficiency and cut costs.