Chaos all day long
Over 1,500 passengers, who need a Covid-19 negative certificate six hours prior to flying to the UAE, start crowding the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport every day since morning.
The overcrowding is so severe that passengers cannot even find a place to sit before check in. All the chairs and even luggage carts are occupied by the passengers waiting to give samples, get their test results, and board their flights.
The passengers usually arrive nine to 10 hours before their flights to give samples and all the collection booths are inside the terminal.
The situation has been worsened by the fact that the five to eight flights to the United Arab Emirates depart between 5:00pm and 7:30pm every day.
Other departing passengers have to navigate through the mayhem and some even complain that they can't hear the public announcements due to noise inside the terminal.
During a recent visit to HSIA, our correspondents found that more than 1,000 passengers were sitting on carts and chairs inside the departure area.
"The airport has turned into a chaotic place because there aren't adequate facilities for the passengers," Jebel Mia, a UAE-bound passenger, told The Daily Star recently.
Alamgir Hossain, 70, who was sitting on the floor and waiting for his flight to Saudi Arabia, said, "I have been waiting for more than two and half hours for a place to sit."
His flight to the KSA for Umrah was to depart hours before the flights to the UAE.
The airport has seating arrangements only for 250 to 300 departing passengers, airport sources said, adding that it has about 2,000 luggage carts.
Md Selim, who was heading for Turkey, said, "The airport has become a chaotic place, like Sadarghat Launch Terminal.
"The main gateway of the country cannot be like this," said Khalid Hossain, who was heading for Kuwait.
Several staffers at the airport said they were finding it difficult to manage the crowd inside the airport.
They added that the situation turns chaotic after 1:00pm and continues until all UAE flights depart in the evening.
Wishing anonymity, a member of the Airport Armed Police Battalion said it was hard to deal with the chaos as five-six UAE flights depart one after another. At that time, 1,600 to 1,700 passengers enter the terminal, said the APBn member.
The UAE had imposed a flight ban from Bangladesh on May 12 following a huge spike in Covid-19 cases there. The ban was lifted in August but the Gulf state made it mandatory to have Covid tests done six hours prior to departing.
Following this, the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh gave permission to six healthcare service providers to set up labs and sample-collection booths at the airport. It had asked for the labs and collection booths to be set up in the car park on the north-east end of the airport.
The service providers had then said having the lab outdoors could compromise the testing process.
The testing and 12 sample-collection booths began operating inside the departure area in late September.
Contacted, Group Captain Touhid-Ul Ahsan, executive director of HSIA, said they were trying to relocate the sample-collection booths to the car park's roof as soon as possible.
"The airport has turned noisy and chaotic due to the Covid-19 sample collection inside the airport," he told The Daily Star.
Seven airlines, including Biman, have direct flights to the UAE from Dhaka. They carry around 20,000 passengers a week to the Gulf country, airport sources said.
The Daily Star tried to contact three of the healthcare service providers but they did not respond.