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2024-04-19 11:40:51

Dispute brews over ground handling rights at HSIA 3rd Terminal

Jayashree Bhaduri

Dispute brews over ground handling rights at HSIA 3rd Terminal

A dispute has arisen over the allocation of ground handling responsibilities for the forthcoming third terminal at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAAB) has expressed a preference for engaging Japanese companies, sparking speculation that Biman Bangladesh Airlines may collaborate with a Japanese entity as a third-party contractor if direct handling rights are not secured.

CAAB Chairman Air Vice Marshal M Mofidur Rahman stated to Bangladesh Pratidin, "We intend to entrust the management and maintenance of the third terminal to a Japanese company. The agreement could be finalized by July-August." Although rumors suggest Biman Bangladesh Airlines seeks involvement in ground handling through collaboration with a Japanese firm, no official confirmation has been provided.

The third terminal's construction, supported financially and technically by Japan, involves the participation of Japanese firms such as Mitsubishi and Fujita, alongside South Korea's Samsung under the Aviation Dhaka Consortium (ADC). CAAB is slated to assume control of the terminal from the contractor in September, with Japanese interest extending to management and ground handling duties.

Japan has formally proposed involvement in terminal management and handling to the government, aligning with CAAB's interests. Presently, Biman oversees ground handling services for foreign airlines across all international airports in Bangladesh, generating substantial annual revenue exceeding Tk 500 crore.

Despite complaints regarding service quality, including delayed goods delivery, damaged luggage, and lost items, Biman continues its responsibilities without competition due to its dominant market position.

At various times CAAB tried to hire a ground handling agent, excluding the aircraft, but was never successful. Even aircraft ground handling services have suffered other setbacks in the past. In January 2013, operations at Shahjalal Airport were closed for about five hours due to a strike by an airline union.

Because of this, about 4 thousand passengers of 24 flights on domestic and international routes suffered. Handling of check-in counters for passengers of each airlines, various passenger services including loading and unloading of cargo on the aircraft are mainly included in the ground handling activities. 100% of airport passenger service is ensured mainly through ground handling.

Biman Bangladesh Airlines claims- They have the necessary capacity to handle the ground handling of the old Shahjalal airport as well as the new terminal. Besides, ground handling is a major source of airline revenue. Therefore, if they do not get the ground handling work of the third terminal, the fear of facing a big financial loss has also been highlighted for them.

When the third terminal is fully operational, the Shahjalal airport will be busy several times, then the number of flights will also increase. As a result, the challenge in terms of ground handling will also increase a lot.

Biman Bangladesh Airlines Managing Director and CEO Shafiul Azim told Bangladesh Pratidin, “Why only the third terminal, Biman has the ability to do ground handling work in three other terminals properly. Biman has been providing this service for 52 years. The ground handling of the third terminal will be done by Biman. PPP (Public-Private Partnership) will decide ground handling at the third terminal, not CAAB. More advanced equipment has been purchased to service the third terminal, recruitment and training of manpower is also underway.”

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the soft opening of the terminal on October 7 last year. The curtain rises on the mega project with an eye-catching opening. Passengers waiting for the third terminal to be fully operational. CAAB said that the third terminal of Shahjalal International Airport will be fully operational this year.

(The report was published on print and online versions of The Bangladesh Pratidin on April 19 and rewritten in English by Tanvir Raihan)

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