The outbound passengers at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport go through a painful ordeal as they need to wait even for hours in long queues just to enter the airport and drop off luggage for scanning.
Besides, people who arrive late at the airport because of the city’s horrific traffic jams sometimes miss their flights after further delays at the gates, officials of a private airline said.
Different airlines are now requesting their international passengers to come to the airport three to four hours ahead of schedule.
For the chaotic situation at the airport, officials blame the shortage of entrance doors equipped with luggage scanning machines as passengers need to stand in queues to complete the security checking procedures.
Following a hijack bid of a Biman flight on February 24, the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh has asked the authorities to ensure foolproof security checks at all airports including Shahjalal.
Taking advantage of negligence by some staffers in security checking, a youth named Polash Ahmed boarded BG-147 flight carrying a toy gun and some plastic pipes with wire attached to those in his backpack.
The plane made an emergency landing at the Chattogram airport after the suspect allegedly had tried to storm the cockpit of the plane. He was killed later in an eight-minute commando operation.
Officials of a number of local private airlines say they have information that the long queues in some cases have been leading to passengers missing their flights since the airport authorities introduced checks at both heavy-luggage and anti-hijacking gates.
Outbound passengers need to pass through the heavy-luggage gates while entering the terminals and anti-hijacking gate before boarding.
Some passengers said they don’t have any objection regarding the security measures. But long waits at the entrances cannot be acceptable, they said.
While visiting the outbound terminals of the airport in May, this correspondent found passengers waiting, from 20 minutes to over an hour, at the entrances of Terminal-1 and Terminal-2.
There are six gates -- three each at Terminal 1 and 2 -- at the departure terminals. Two of those were not in operation due to shortage of necessary security equipment during the visit of this correspondent.
Passengers said the authorities should increase the number of entry gates for better management of the entrances.
Group Captain, Abu Sayeed Mehboob Khan, director of the airport admitted that passengers often suffer because of long queues.
“Within the existing structure, we cannot add more gates. But the government has taken an initiative to construct a third terminal,” he told The Daily Star on August 3.
“We have appointed supervisors at different points inside the terminals to make sure passengers face no hassle.”
Talking to The Daily Star on May 18, Iqbal Hossain, who was waiting at the entrance of Terminal-2, said he was not sure whether he would be able to catch his flight.
“Considering the city’s huge traffic jam, I started around 11:00am from my Lalbagh home to catch my 4:00pm flight,” he said.
“I reached the airport at 1:45pm and since then I have been standing in the queue to enter the airport terminal. It’s now 2:30pm -- I am not sure whether I will be able to catch my flight.”
Several passengers next to Iqbal expressed their frustration.
“We don’t object to the security checking. But this checking shouldn’t be at the cost of our flight,” shouted Nurul Islam, a migrant worker who came from Cumilla.
Several passengers said they were not aware that additional one or two hours will be required only for entering the terminal.
“The airport authorities should run media advertisements about the long queues for security checking,” Abdul Maleq, a Dubai-bound passenger said, asking, “Who will take the responsibility if I miss the flight?”
Some passengers raised a hue and cry while talking to the security staffs.
“For VIP passengers, the situation is different as there is no long queue at the VIP gate. But ordinary passengers are left to fight the chaos at the entrance in the name of security checking,” said Enam Hossain, a Singapore-bound passenger.
This correspondent saw around 70 to 80 passengers standing in queues at each of gate no 1 and 3 around 4:30pm on May 9.
Some security staff of the airport said the number of passengers in queues increases a lot at night when large planes depart one after another.
“Passengers need to wait even more than one and a half hours,” said a security staff of the airport, wishing anonymity.
After entering the terminal through heavy luggage checking, a passenger needs to complete three phases standing in queues -- collecting boarding pass from check-in counter, facing immigration, going through anti-hijacking security gate before boarding the aircraft.
Their sufferings are compounded also due to delays in those formalities.
A passenger travelling to the US in February, said she had to wait at least 45 minutes at the immigration queue before she could board the aircraft.
“When I was standing at the immigration queue, I heard the airlines staff making the last call for passengers,” she said, wishing anonymity.
When she asked an immigration official why there was such a long queue, he said there are five to six large aircraft that will depart within a short time of each other.
“Besides, the immigration officials are mostly new at their job. Often, whenever an official gets trained, he or she is transferred to another department,” he said.