The under-construction third terminal of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, with a capacity to handle 24 million passengers and 500,000 tonnes of cargo per year, is expected to be soft launched on 7 October, said Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) Chairman Air Vice Marshal M Mafidur Rahman.
So far, 81.6% of the construction of the much-anticipated terminal has been completed.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has given her consent to the inauguration of this priority mega project of the government, the CAAB chairman told journalists after visiting the construction site on Tuesday.
"Initially, only airlines will be able to avail of its services. The terminal is expected to be open to passengers at the end of next year," he said.
Regarding the progress of the project, he said, "It has been going on in a planned way. We expect 90% of construction to be completed by October."
The Tk21,300-crore project got underway in December 2019 and according to the initial plan, the terminal should be open to the public by April 2024.
The terminal building is now widely visible. Work on interior decoration and the installation of various equipment is going on.
"We are working on systems integration which will continue even after the soft launch. Two aspects of this are equipment systems and manpower readiness," said the CAAB chairman.
"The terminal's features are very sophisticated. It will get enough natural light. Passengers will appreciate the high ceiling which we never had here before," he added.
More than one company for ground handling
Currently, Biman Bangladesh Airlines is responsible for ground handling at Dhaka and other airports.
About hiring a third party for ground handling, he said Biman will finalise the deal with any suitable Japanese company in the middle of next year.
"The signing of the agreement is expected by the middle of next year. Until then, the CAAB will look after these tasks. Besides, Biman will not be excluded from ground handling as there will be more than one company to operate the activities," the CAAB chairman said.
Mafidur Rahman said a policy decision has been made that Japan will get the maintenance and operation of the new terminal.
"In light of that decision, our PPP authority has appointed a transitional advisor. He will fix all the terms and conditions on which interested Japanese companies will work," he added.
The maintenance scope of this operation includes cargo handling, ground handling and terminal boarding.
Stating that many international airports around the world have multiple ground handlers, he said, "The Japanese firm will decide who will get the work of ground handling. If there is more than one company, then the airlines will choose from among whom they will take service."
It is a misconception that Biman has been excluded from ground handling. Biman has its flights which it has to handle, he added.
He further said an airline will choose a company based on the service it receives but there must be completion, which will improve service quality. More revenue will be generated.
Upon completion of the third terminal, Dhaka Airport's annual passenger and cargo handling capacity are expected to double. It can accommodate approximately 24 million passengers (including the old terminal) and handle 500,000 tonnes of cargo each year.
In reply to a question whether the third terminal is being inaugurated in a hurry because of political pressure, he said, "There is no political pressure."
Regarding radar installation, he said new radar services will be available in October. Air traffic towers and other issues have caused some delays, he said.