Shah Amanat International Airport in Chattogram has started reaping benefits from ongoing infrastructure expansion and digitalisation projects, with the facility going beyond the Tk100 crore mark in revenue for the first time in the last fiscal year – a feat that no other airport outside Dhaka has ever achieved.
According to the Bangladesh Civil Aviation Authority's annual report for fiscal 2021-22, Shah Amanat Airport contributed Tk106 crore to the aviation authority's total revenue of Tk1,677 crore.
The 20% year-on-year growth in earnings from the port city airport in FY22 also was 5% higher than the average annual growth in the civil aviation authority's revenue receipts in the past 10 years.
Wing Commander M Farhad Hossain Khan, director of Shah Amanat Airport, told The Business Standard that the airport's revenue earnings in recent years were nowhere near last year's figure. The previous highest income was in FY16 when the airport fetched Tk86 crore in revenue, he added.
Activities at the airport will get a greater push once several ongoing development projects are completed by June 2023, he continued.
Shah Amanat Airport getting a facelift
The Civil Aviation Authority has undertaken measures to enhance the capacity of Shah Amanat International Airport. Consultants, who have already been appointed for the airport expansion project, will submit their plans within the next year.
The aviation authority's annual report for FY22 says the recruitment of 70 officials to improve the quality of international services in the field of civil aviation at Shah Amanat International Airport is at the final stage.
Besides, over 60% of the airport's runway overlay project has been completed, while body scanners have been installed.
The work on a Tk540 crore project for increasing the capacity of the runway and taxiway at the airport is in progress.
Construction work on a boarding bridge, connecting corridor, and departure lounge will commence.
Giving an update on the ongoing development projects, Airport Manager Farhad Hossain told TBS that work on increasing the capacity of the runway and taxiway at the airport is expected to be completed by next June.
"Apart from this, agreements have been inked with contractors for the construction of the connecting corridor and departure lounge at the airport. This work will be completed by December 2023," he added.
Moreover, work on a project to expand the tarmac at Shah Amanat International is underway, said Farhad Hossain. He added that if this project is implemented, space will be created to accommodate two more aircraft. Currently, Shah Amanat International Airport can accommodate 10 aircraft on the tarmac.
Flights on new routes demanded
A number of large infrastructure projects, including Chattogram Deep Sea Port, Maheshkhali power hub, Bangabandhu Tunnel, bay terminal, elevated expressway from Airport to Lalkhanbazar, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Shilpa Nagar, are underway in Chattogram, which has attracted more businesses and investment, including foreign direct investment, to the region.
The multifold increase in economic activities is expected to make Chattogram an economic hub of South Asia.
But Shah Amanat Airport does not have all kinds of facilities as an airport of the booming commercial city that Chattogram is.
Notwithstanding that there are enough passengers in the region, the airport does not have any direct flights to Southeast Asian countries.
For this reason, passengers traveling to such countries as India, Malaysia and Singapore have to pass through the capital Dhaka, which takes additional time and money.
Against such a backdrop, business leaders in Chattogram have long been demanding that flights be introduced on new routes besides increasing the capacity of the airport.
On 13 September this year, Chattogram Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Mahbubul Alam wrote to State Minister of Civil Aviation Mahbub Ali, urging him to take steps to begin flights of Biman Bangladesh Airlines on the Dhaka-Chattogram-Bangkok and Chattogram-Kolkata routes.
Regent Airways once used to operate flights on Southeast Asian routes from Chattogram, which now remain suspended, the airport manager said.
But most India-bound flights from Southeast Asia, including Malaysia and Singapore, regularly arrive at Shah Amanat International Airport for refuelling, he added.
International flights are reluctant to fly from the airport owing to a lack of hangar facilities, he noted, adding, "We hope aircraft will resume operations on the Southeast Asian routes in future after the Bangabandhu Tunnel and Mirsarai-Cox's Bazar economic corridor are ready."
Currently, six foreign and two domestic airlines operate flights from Shah Amanat International Airport. They are Flydubai, Air Arabia, Jazeera Airways, Oman Air and SalamAir, and SpiceJet. Besides, Bangladesh Biman operates flights on the Jeddah, Dubai, Oman and Sharjah routes, and US Bangla on the Muscat and Doha routes.