Airports gearing up for more flyers, planes

Govt spending Tk 32,605cr on 8 airfields to meet growing demand

The government is spending around Tk 32,605 crore to upgrade the eight commercial airports in the country and these facilities may start delivering dividends from as soon as this October.

The amount being spent is more than the cost of the Padma Bridge. 

The work involves constructing a third terminal at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA), laying the country's longest runway in Cox's Bazar, expanding and strengthening the runways at six airports, increasing the cargo handling capacities, and improving basic amenities.

These should result in improved service and capacity for domestic and international air traffic and passengers.

The country's airports, including the HSIA, have been struggling to provide the service the flyers expect. They have been complaining about sub-par ground handling and other services.

Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) Chairman Air Vice Marshal M Mafidur Rahman told The Daily Star that the eight airports were being upgraded under 15 projects.

The biggest project by far is the third terminal at HSIA being built for Tk 21,399 crore. Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) is funding 70 percent of the cost.

Adding 1,700 feet to the Cox's Bazar Airport's 9,000 feet runway for Tk 1,568 crore is another major project. Once complete, the airport will be able to handle aircraft like the Boeing 777s.

Mafidur said at least seven of the projects, including the third terminal air traffic management system at the HSIA, development of Cox's Bazar Airport, reinforcement of the runway and taxiways of Sylhet airport, and capacity building of CAAB are set to be complete by the year-end.

Aviation expert ATM Nazrul Islam said improved capacity and infrastructure facilities at the airports are necessary to tackle the growing air traffic.

He said in 1991, the number of passengers on domestic routes was around three lakh which has now increased to 25 lakh. For international routes, the number has increased from 11 lakh to 86 lakh.

The country's aviation market had a yearly growth rate of about 10 percent over the last 10 years, according to the civil aviation ministry. The market is expected to be three times bigger in 15 years, he added.

Asked, aviation expert ATM Nazrul Islam said runway improvements will definitely help bigger aircraft's land and take off and larger terminal building will facilitate passengers. However, CAAB should also plan to install approach light systems and instrument landing systems to facilitate landings at night and during poor visibility in some airports.


Around 70 percent work of the third terminal has been done. The interior decoration and the installation of various equipment are being done at present, said the CAAB chairman, adding that a soft opening is expected in October.

Flyers will get international-quality services, he hopes.

Designed by celebrated architect Rohani Baharin, the 2.30 lakh square metre terminal will have 115 check-in counters, 64 departure and 64 arrival immigration desks, 27 luggage scanners, 12 boarding bridges, and 16 carousels.

There will be a new 63,000 square metre import and export cargo complex, a 5.42 lakh square metre apron for 37 planes and a new car park for 1,230 vehicles.

Besides, cargo handling capacity will rise from 2.20 lakh tonnes to 7 lakh tonnes, the CAAB chairman said, adding that the HSIA will be able to handle around 2 crore passengers a year.


The load-bearing capacity of the runway and taxiways will be improved to allow large planes to land with a full load in Sylhet, CAAB officials said.

Besides, under the joint finance of the government and CAAB, another project at a cost of Tk 2,309 crore was taken to improve the passenger and cargo handling capacity at the airport.

Under the project, a 34,919 square metre terminal, a 6,892 square metre cargo complex, a control tower, a fire station, a maintenance building and a car park will be built.

The CAAB chairman, however, said due to a fault in the design, the work on the project is stalled.


Extending the runway was supposed to be complete by May, 2024, but steps have been taken to complete it by the end this year, said the CAAB chairman.


About 80 percent work of the runway and taxiway enhancement at Shah Amanat International Airport in Chattogram has been completed. The project is worth Tk 540.52 crore.


The terminal building of Saidpur Airport is being modernised. The project is nearing completion, and when done, the terminal will be able to accommodate 670 people, up from the current capacity of 310.

Besides, a cargo building with some level of automation, an operations building with apron, taxiways, and a control tower will be built.


The runway of Barishal airport is also being extended from 6,000 to 7,500 feet at a cost of Tk 370 crore. The width of the runway is being increased from 100 to 150 feet.

Rajshahi Terminal Building Expansion Project is being implemented at a cost of Tk 76 crore. This will increase the passenger accommodation from 260 to 850.

The Jashore Terminal Building Expansion Project will increase passenger accommodation from 300 to 600 people. Ninety-nine percent work of the project has been completed.

Another project, costing Tk 566 crore, has been taken up to ease landing and take off of aircraft at Jashore, Saidpur, and Rajshahi airports.