There’s chaos at Dhaka Airport

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Passengers suffer from reduced flight time for runway closure, blamed for inadequate response

The crowd waiting in the departure lounge of Dhaka Airport is scandalous, especially as most of the people are waiting for their Covid tests to be checked. The photo was taken yesterday. Photo: collected

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The crowd waiting in the departure lounge of Dhaka Airport is scandalous, especially as most of the people are waiting for their Covid tests to be checked. The photo was taken yesterday. Photo: collected

Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport has been a nightmare for travelers for over a week.

Baggage trolleys are hard to come by, the queue in front of the departure lounge is far too long, there are too few health officials to check the Covid tests, and the rush at the counters is wavering.

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This was mainly because flights that were supposed to be over 24 hours are now being operated over 16 as the lonely runway remains closed from 00:00 to 08:00 due to renovation of the taxiways.

The total chaos could have been prevented if the authorities had dispatched more people to take care of the logistics and serve the travelers, said flyers and employees of various airlines.

In the meantime, flights are often delayed by up to two hours as passengers stress about missing their connecting flights.

“It’s a total mess,” said Razila Sultana on Tuesday evening before leaving for Istanbul. “The departure lounge remains crowded and extremely noisy. There is no seating. In fact, it is difficult to buy food and water. Traveling through this airport is stressful.”

The check-in and immigration counters fail to handle 12,000 to 15,000 passengers on 110 international flights in just 16 instead of 24 hours.

The chaos appears to peak between 7 p.m. and midnight, when around 3,000 passengers depart on 14 to 15 flights, airline employees said.

Migrant workers traveling to the United Arab Emirates have been suffering from HSIA since the end of September, when the Gulf country obliged arriving passengers to test negative for Covid-19 six hours before boarding their flights.

An estimated 3,000 to 5,000 passengers who fly to the UAE every day arrive at the airport eight to nine hours before their flights for the Covid tests. You have no place to rest.

These correspondents recently visited the airport three times and witnessed passengers, especially those traveling to the United Arab Emirates, having to sit on their luggage for lack of adequate seating.

“When I got to the airport, I looked for a cart. I searched all six entrance gates of Terminal 2 and the parking lot for 20 minutes. But there was nothing,” said Abdul Mazid.

Travelers are often seen carrying or lugging their luggage.

Abdur Rashid, who was scheduled to fly to Jeddah at 7.30pm on Friday, said, β€œI got to the airport around 4pm as my airlines told me to check in by 5.30pm. But it’s 5:45 pm and I’m still waiting in line to enter the terminal. “

About 30 people were standing in line in front of him when he spoke to this newspaper.

“Could you get us mosquito repellent instead of asking questions?” quipped a passenger in line.

There is another long queue in the departure lounge to have the Covid reports signed by an airport health officer. Another long line can be seen in front of the immigration counters.

Sumiya Akhter, who flew to Canada with her three children on Tuesday, said she had given an airline employee Tk 1,000 to have his Covid certificate signed.

On Friday evening, over a dozen flights to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Jeddah, Doha, Bahrain, Dammam, Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah were delayed by 30 minutes to two hours.

Contacted group captain AHM Touhid-ul Ahsan, executive director of HSIA, told The Daily Star on Friday that authorities had increased the number of staff, security measures and counters to address the problem.

All of immigration’s 42 departure and 48 arrival desks are now open 24/7 to keep flights from being delayed for immigration purposes, he said, adding that further action is being taken.

Minister of State for Civil Aviation and Tourism M Mahbub Ali said last week that 600 unusable carts will soon be repaired and 2,500 more will be procured.

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