With air travel projected to rise sharply after the upcoming opening of the third terminal at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA), Bangladeshi aviation authorities have drawn up plans for constructing a second runway at the Dhaka airport. However, space constraints will mean the two runways cannot be used simultaneously for takeoffs and landings.
According to a senior official from a foreign airline, long queues of aircraft waiting to take off are already common at HSIA, often delaying departures by 30-40 minutes. Landings also sometimes get postponed due to heavy air traffic. He said such delays make it challenging for airlines to maintain schedules and increase operating costs.
Experts say managing the growth in flights and passengers will require both runways to be utilized concurrently. But the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) says there is insufficient room at HSIA for the mandated 1,035 meters of separation between parallel runways for simultaneous operations.
CAAB completed a feasibility study on constructing a new runway and submitted its report to the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism in July. Work on the second runway is expected to start after the third terminal’s inauguration next May.
“With the third terminal functional, the airport’s passenger handling capacity will rise exponentially, new carriers will start services, and passenger traffic will climb significantly every day,” said CAAB Chairman Air Vice Marshal M Mafidur Rahman.
At least 12 international airlines have applied for permission to operate flights from Dhaka, while Emirates and Kuwait Airways want to increase frequencies.
Mafidur explained the planned parallel runways would be only 359 meters apart. So simultaneous takeoffs and landings requiring instrument landing system guidance will not be possible as the signals may interfere. But visual approaches can be done.
Still, the new runway will prove beneficial. When a plane lands on one strip, another aircraft can line up for immediate departure on the second one without waiting. And if a runway needs closing in an emergency, flights can continue via the other strip.
CAAB is also optimizing resources to handle more aircraft and travelers. Upgrading infrastructure and management allowed Dubai airport to serve 50 million annual passengers initially using one runway. “We handle only 8 million now. Through enhancements, we can accommodate many more flyers with the current runway,” Mafidur added.
Along with the new runway, existing facilities are being improved. Two rapid exit taxiways were built. A sophisticated air traffic management system is being implemented for faster plane movement between runway and parking bays. The number of boarding bridges will also increase.
HSIA’s annual passenger capacity will double to 20 million after the third terminal opens. Currently, 33 airlines operate around 150 daily flights from Dhaka.