BD achieves robust air traffic growth, facilities up-gradation now a must

- Raquib Siddiqi01 Oct, 2019 | 3373 Views|-+
Dhaka : Air traffic in Bangladesh has maintained continued robust growth in more than four decades. There is no sign of slowing. The need now is to modernise aviation infrastructure in the country as per global standard, to keep the momentum of growth up and facilities updated.

In the present day world, air transportation has assumed great importance as the driver of economic and social progress. It connects people, countries and cultures. It provides access to global markets. It generates trade and tourism. It forges links between nations.

However, in Bangladesh, despite continued robust growth of air transportation in past decades, the importance is yet to be recognised and as such the civil aviation services are still locked in primitive system.

Globally, airports and air transport industry is large, innovative, and has excellent prospects. Moreover, the industry is in the midst of substantial organisational and technical changes that are redefining the practice of airport. Bangladesh must now address the current trend and execute plan to adopt those.

This is important for air traffic to double again. Airport traffic has doubled every 15 years since the 1970s, and is expected to double again within the next 15 years.

Traditional ways to meet air traffic expansion are not always possible as airports are built in cities. The threat of climate change and scarce resources are forcing airports to rethink how they can be more sustainable while still enhancing efficiency.

Advances in technology and digital transformation are bringing possibilities to airports, yet also creating new demands from customers and added cost pressures. Despite operational complexity and cost transparency continuously increasing, airports always put safety first.

While forecasts predict a bright future, airports and airlines today face a mixed bag of opportunities and challenges. IATA says air traffic will double and grow at 3.8 per cent annually to reach seven billion passengers per year by 2034.

Bangladesh scene

A country of over 160 million people, Bangladesh has moved from an uncertain economic future in 1971 to become one of the best performers. Since 1990 Bangladesh has seen major improvements on a number of development indicators.

It is the 39th largest in the world in nominal terms, and 29th largest by purchasing power parity; it is classified among the Next Eleven emerging market middle income economies and a Frontier market. According to the IMF, Bangladesh's economy is the second fastest growing major economy of 2016, with a rate of 7.1 per cent.

The increase in economic activity and its growth has made impact on the air transportation-both international and domestic- in Bangladesh

Growth in air travel

Air travel demand in Bangladesh has experienced healthy growth in the past more than four decades. The trend of growth both in passenger and cargo is expected to continue in near future with increased industrialisation and economic development.

From just 5, 80,000 or nearly 0.6 million passengers in 1972-the first year after independence, domestic and international air passenger traffic increased to 8,896,571 or 8.9 million in 2018-an astounding growth of 1433.89 per cent.

The growth of air cargo increased from 39,359 tons in 1990 to 384,291 tons in 2018-a growth of 876.37 per cent

In the first two decades after independence between 1972 and 1992, the number of air passenger increased by 188.6 per cent-from 58,000 to 1,645,035. A decade later in 2002 passenger traffic increased by 79.25 per cent to 2,948,880. In the next decade in 2012, passenger number increased by 109.34 per cent to 6,173,423 from 2,948,880. In the past six years since 2012, the passenger traffic registered an increase of 441.12 per cent to 8,896,571 in 2018 from 6,173,423.

HSJIA growth

2012: Passenger traffic increased to 6,173, 423--International-4,984,315 and Domestic-1,189,108. Volume of cargo increased to 2,141,196 Metric tons-on International- routes 213,466 and on domestic- 730 Metric tons.

2013: Passenger traffic increased to 5,879,600--International-5,231,581 and Domestic- 648,019. Cargo- International-234,038. Domestic-802. Total- 234,840 MT.

2014: Passenger traffic totaled 6,084,215 -5,398,945 on international and- 685,198 on domestic routes.. Cargo- International- 246,478. Domestic- 1,528. Total- 248,006 MT.

2015: Passenger traffic increased to 6,081,578-- International-5,568,934 and Domestic- 912,644. Cargo-International-258,016. Domestic- 1,888. Total-259,904 MT.

2016: Passenger traffic increased to 6,939,883 -- International- 5,936,852 and Domestic- 1,003,031. Cargo- International-281,993. Domestic- 2,317. Total- 284,310 MT.

2017: Passenger traffic totaled 7,650,021- International-6,477,173 and Domestic-1,172,848. Cargo- International-321,526. Domestic-2,730. Total- 324,256 MT.

2018: Passenger traffic increased to 8,896,571-- International-7,074,924 and Domestic-1,821,647. Cargo- International-369,545 tons. Domestic- 13,746 tons. Total- 383,291 tons.

All airports

All airports: 2017- International-Pax -7,603,447. Domestic- 2,937,633. Cargo-International-332,250 tons. Domestic-8483 tons.

All airports: 2018-Pax-International-.8,263,998 Domestic- 4,125,001. Total-8,896,571. Cargo-International- 369,545 tons. Domestic- 13,746 tons.

Growth in flights

Similar to passenger and cargo traffic-in fact to meet the demand of the robust growth-the number of commercial flights, both in international and domestic sector have also registered healthy growth.

In the five year between 2013 and 2017 the number of commercial fights-both international and domestic_ in the country increased by 177.37 per cent. Of this growth 159.05 in international sector and 203.82 per cent in domestic sector.

2013: Flight No- International 18,099. Domestic-12,526. Total-30,625.

2014: Flight No- International -35,181. Domestic-24,127. Total-59,308.

2015: Flight No- International-37,192. Domestic-38,020. Total-69,404.

2016: Flight No-International-41,680. Domestic-38,020. Total-79,700.

2017: Flight No-International-46,887. Domestic-38,057. Total-84,944.

In 2018 average daily flight was 250-130 international and 120 domestic. Cargo flight was 10.

From the operational statistics it is evident that all the sectors have registered growth during the period. In the critical areas of passenger and cargo, the growth figures are undoubtedly healthy.

IATA confirmation

The commercial aviation of Bangladesh, is flying high with healthy growth and according to projection of International Air Transport Association (IATA), it will go even higher.

According to IATA, the number of air travellers in Bangladesh would increase to 21 million in 2035. The commercial aviation sector will provide job to 3.3 million people, a growth of 145 per cent, over 2014. Commercial aviation's contribution to GDP would be USD8 billion-an increase of 142 per cent over 2014.

The figures and future projections were contained in IATA's "Future Economic Impact in Asia Pacific : Unconstrained Projection for 2035".

The growth in Bangladesh is part of the growing trend in Asia Pacific region. According to IATA, Asia-Pacific is achieving unprecedented growth in commercial aviation.

High economic impacts are generated and the spin-off impact of increased air connectivity has facilitated general growth, the IATA report said and added that coming capacity increases will generate greater economic impact.

The economic footprint of aviation goes far beyond the sector. It directly impacts the airports and airport related businesses. Supplying and supporting industries are benefitted indirectly. It also induces spending of employees in the economy. In addition to these wider economic benefits air service facilities like tourism, trade, investment and productivity growth.

Poor infrastructure

But infrastructure is essential to unlocking growth potential. Proper infrastructure to accommodate the growth must be there. So, the development of infrastructure must keep pace with the growth to keep upward trend uninterrupted.

This is applicable for the entire Asia Pacific region in general and Bangladesh in particular. Because, aviation infrastructure in Bangladesh is at present poor. According to IATA report, air travel in Asia will be greater than Europe and North America combined by 2030.

Aviation insiders noted that situation in aviation sector in Bangladesh is not very encouraging because of poor infrastructure.

The existing facilities at most of the domestic airports--both landside and airside areas--were built to serve the traffic of just one DC-3 or F-27 or F-28 or ATP flights a day. In the decades between 1950s and 1980s, the airport handled once a day, flight of one of these small commercial aircraft.

Passenger load during the decades was low. But things started changing with the advent of private airlines in the decade of 1990s. With the start for flight operations by number of private airlines, domestic airports got great boost to capacity-as a result demand increased significantly.

In recent years, traffic--both passenger and cargo-- of all the airports has registered significant growth and showing further growth potentials. But unfortunately facilities have failed to keep pace. As a result travellers are suffering due to lack of basic facilities.

Through privatisation of air transportation in Bangladesh, the government has opened up a new horizon, but has not taken necessary follow-up measures to guide and support the nascent industry.

Needs up-gradation

In the absence of proper up-gradation as required, Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) is operating with manpower and equipment, sanctioned more than three decades ago in 1984, when the work load was considerably far less than what it is now.

The CAAB was created to function as the regulatory body for all aviation related activities in Bangladesh. It is also the aeronautical service provider and is responsible for safe, expeditious and efficient flow of air traffic within the Flight Information Region (FIR) bounded by the International geographic boundary of Bangladesh. This organisation is the custodian of all airfields and allied facilities including air navigation facilities.

Despite limitations of different nature, the CAAB has already implemented and trying to implement a number of development projects, to increase capacity and enhance efficiency of the airport. But those are not enough.

There is urgent need of up gradation to keep pace with the global development as the air transportation services in Bangladesh are below par, compared to international standard, due mainly to shortage of proper manpower and equipment. But lack of understanding of the importance by the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism (MOCAT) has forced Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) to operate with shortage and improper manpower and equipment.

To achieve IATA projected growth in aviation, development of infrastructure must keep pace with the growth on the industry. This is applicable for Bangladesh.

According to IATA, priorities must be given to compliance with ICAO guidance on airport development, terminal and runway capacity.

Enhancing security measures is one of the priorities. Security measures must be constantly improved to combat security threats, the report of the IATA suggested.

Development of aviation infrastructure is essential to unlocking growth potential. In Bangladesh as well as in other Asia Pacific region, this development of aviation infrastructure is the responsibility of the governments, of the respective countries. So, it is the job of the government to plan development of infrastructure to keep pace with the growth.

In Bangladesh, the government is yet to initiate appropriate action to keep pace with the growth and as per the need of the time.

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