Bangladesh still lags behind in passenger facilitation despite its faster growth in air connectivity with the rest of the world with rising flows of passengers to and from the country.
Bangladesh scored 2.3 out of 10 in passenger facilitation in 2018, below the average score of 4.4 in Asia-Pacific, according to a report, "The Importance of Air Transport to Bangladesh."
The country is also poor in air cargo facilitation and ranks 117th among 124 countries in the Air Trade Facilitation Index. Moreover, it occupies the last position in the e-Freight Friendliness Index globally, according to the report published by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) recently.
Bangladesh's poor score in air travel services means that the country needs more upgradation in airport and ground handling services.
The government has already moved for mega investment to expand the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport with intent to enhance air transport services to an international standard.
With an investment of Tk21,399 crore, the government will build the much-awaited terminal-3, which is expected to bring about a massive change in the airport's capacity and security.
When contacted, Md Mohibul Haque, senior secretary in the civil aviation and tourism ministry, said the government has taken a move to modernise and upgrade all airports across the country by improving services.
He said the government is already in the process of acquiring 900 acres of land for establishing an international airport in Saidpur.
Besides, there has been significant progress in upgrading Cox's Bazar airport to an international level. Technical evaluation of a tender for a new terminal at Osmani International Airport of Sylhet has already been done and the work order of Tk700 crore has been issued, he added.
Moreover, many direct international flights are being introduced to provide more comfort to air travellers. For instance, Biman Bangladesh Airlines is trying to introduce direct flights from Sylhet to London. The London flights are currently being operated via Dhaka, he said.
The IATA report forecasts the growth of air transport in Bangladesh at 8.4 percent annually until 2038 if the current trend continues.
In 2018, air passenger flow was 7.2 million, which will increase to 19.3 million by 2038.The rise in air transport will add 6 lakh air passengers annually with a total of 12.1 million passenger departures by that year.
The increased demand will create around 7,000 jobs every year, according to the report.
The IATA report shows that Bangladesh's air connectivity with cities around the world has almost doubled in the last five years.
As an instance, in 2018, Bangladesh was connected with all cities of the Middle East, the largest labour market of the country. The connectivity was almost half of that in 2013.
Bangladesh's air connectivity with Asia Pacific was 73 percent in 2018 and 25 percent in Europe.
In 2018, Bangladesh served 28 international destinations, according to the report.
Asia-Pacific is the largest market for passenger flows to Bangladesh, followed by the Middle East and Europe.
The report shows that 4.2 million passengers arrived in Bangladesh from Asia-Pacific, which was 61.3 percent of the total number of air travellers.
The Middle East contributed 30.3 percent, Europe 5.2 percent and the rest of the world 3.2 percent, according to the report.
Amid the faster growth of the aviation industry in Bangladesh, the IATA in its report expressed dissatisfaction over the government's imposition of a retroactive 15 percent VAT on air transport services.
These retroactive VAT assessments, dating back to 2009, will result in significant financial expenses for airlines, said the report.
It will negatively impact the growth of the aviation industry, investment and jobs, according to the report.