Bangladesh's prime airport, Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA), may get overcrowded with passengers far beyond its handling capacity next year for neglecting timely expansion.
Sources said its management is already getting into difficulty in passenger handling and the growing pressure of passengers would continue until completion of the belated airport-expansion works.
They said both levels of service and management capacity of the HSIA are going to deteriorate as both terminal 1 and 2 would be saturated next year and terminal 3 under the airport-expansion project would not be ready anytime before 2022.
According to a study, HSIA's passenger-handling capacity is expected to cross its maximum limit of 8.0 million passengers per annum (mppa) in 2018 as the airport already handled 6.5 million passengers in 2016.
With the current rate of 7.0 per cent growth, the study by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) as part of the HSIA-expansion project shows the largest airport of the country is expected to be heaving under a load of 10mppa in 2020.
According to the findings, cargo volume of the HSIA already outstripped its capacity in 2015 and now handles over 250,000 tonnes of cargoes against the capacity of 200,000 tonnes. The rate of cargo increase is around 9.0 per cent.
According to JICA website information, passenger capacity of the airport after expansion will stand at 20 million and cargo-handling one at 500,000 tonnes a year. But, the sources said, both the capacities of HSIA will again get saturated within few years after the expansion work.
"At the current rate of increase, the cargo-handling capacity would again be saturated within five years after the expansion work and passengers after few more years," said an official, adding that the airport would then have no scope of further expansion.
He said though the Civil Aviation Authority, Bangladesh (CAAB) has undertaken a project to construct another international airport, it would take at least 10 to 12 years to take off.
In view of such paradoxes, experts say that the CAAB has to compromise its services to tackle growing loads of passengers and cargoes.
According to CAAB, flight schedules will then be spread during peak-and off-peak hours to manage the airport's eight boarding bridges and 22 remote parking for the flights of 30 big and small airliners.
"The airport will then be busy 24 hours with no off-and-on hours…all boarding bridges or luggage belts will be busy even after the expansion work," said the official.
He said all the services, including immigration and security system, would then have to be kept busy day and night, and time of handling each passenger would be reduced significantly.
The official, however, said the airport has to bear the pressure of undesirable departure passengers who stay longer time than average to avoid the city's traffic jam. These passengers arrive at the airport much earlier than the flight schedule.
Besides, he added, due to unplanned development of the city surrounding the HSIA, pressure of city traffic is also reflected in the airport passenger-and-cargo management. All the arriving passengers also cannot leave the airport premises easily owing to lack of transport facility and dedicated airport road.
CAAB has taken the HSIA expansion work with support of JICA to introduce the terminal 3 by 2021 due to saturated condition in the existing two terminals.
The total capacity of Terminal 3 under expansion work will be 16mppa. But phase 1 development will be 12mppa. The target time of completing JICA project is 2021, but some facilities will be opened earlier, like, new VVIP in 2019 and new cargo in 2020.
Only the runway capacity of the HSIA still remains unutilised.
The airport, located in around an area of 1981acres, started operation in 1980. It now has the capacity to handle 70,000 movements a year which is expected to rise to140,000 after the completion of terminal 3. Movement is counted with the occupancy level of planes' arrival and departure in a year.
"In all circumstances, we have no other choice but to go for setting up another international airport to accommodate the increasing passenger and cargoes in the country," said a source engaged in the terminal 3 project.
But, he said, after the expansion work, the HSIA will be comparable to many other international airports, for example, Thailand and Delhi.