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Terminal 3 at Shahjalal set for soft opening Saturday

The third terminal of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport is set to have its soft opening on Saturday morning (October 7).

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will officially inaugurate the new terminal for the country’s leading international airport, that stands out as one of the most talked-about and exciting among all the ‘megaprojects’ undertaken by the AL-led government.

Once the prime minister has completed the formalities, a special flight operated by state-owned Biman Bangladesh will depart from Dhaka using the newly constructed third terminal. Ground handling services for this special flight will be provided by the airline, reports UNB.

Preparations for the inauguration are being carried out collaboratively by the Biman Bangladesh Airlines Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB). A Biman flight, BG371 to Kathmandu, has already departed twice from the terminal to rehearse for the opening, although immigration and other paperwork was not done there.

Talking to UNB ahead of the inauguration, Air Vice Marshal M. Mofidur Rahman, chairman of CAAB, said that approximately 90 percent of the construction of Terminal 3 has been completed under the Shahjalal International Airport Expansion Project (Phase I).

Apart from the main terminal, the cargo complex comprising both export and import facilities, is nearly complete, said the CAAB chairman: “The cargo complex is in its final stages and is expected to be operational by March or April.”

Security arrangements for the airport have been meticulously planned for Saturday’s soft opening.

“Our target is to make the terminal fully functional for passengers by December 2024. The work is progressing ahead of schedule, and we are confident that the terminal will be operational before the planned deadline,” he said.

Meanwhile Md. Shafiul Azim, managing director of Biman Bangladesh, told UNB the national flag carrier is fully prepared for the soft opening of Terminal 3.

“New equipment has been procured for the ground handling of Terminal-3, and international standard uniforms have been provided to the staff on duty. The airline conducted exercises, including ground handling, in preparation for the inauguration,” he said.

Terminal 3 is expected to provide a sea-change in terms of passenger experience and choice in a state-of-the-art setting. It starts with the 37 aircraft parking spaces, which has already seen some airlines that never flew to Bangladesh before, make queries to include Dhaka as a destination in the near future.

The 26 boarding bridges (of which 12 are to be launched in October), along with 115 check-in counters, including 15 self-service, promise a breezier experience for anyone departing Dhaka, or flying in. .

The baggage handling system will be on the ground floor, departure lounge and boarding bridge on the second floor, and extensive duty-free shops and exit lounges.

Terminal 3 will have the capacity to serve 1.20 crore (12 million) passengers annually on its own, once fully operational. At present the airport is able to serve 80 lakh (8 million) passengers in a year. A multi-storey car parking facility, customs hall, VIP and VVIP passenger areas, and a transit passenger lounge are also part of the terminal’s offerings.

The three-storey terminal, designed by Rohani Baharin of internationally renowned CPG Corporation (Private) Limited Singapore, will have a floor space of 230,000 square metres. Baharin’s CV includes the acclaimed third terminal of Singapore’s Changi Airport, as well as Ahmedabad’s new international airport.

The second phase of the project will involve constructing a corridor and the multi-level car parking building with 1,350 parking spaces.

In terms of passenger convenience, the new terminal will introduce automated passport control or e-gates, reducing wait times. Passengers can choose self-immigration through the e-gates or opt for assistance at one of 56 exit immigration counters. A modern fire-fighting system and advanced security screening process will enhance safety measures.

The terminal will also include movie lounges, food courts, airline lounges, and world class duty-free shops. Facilities like Wi-Fi, mobile charging, prayer areas, and a Meeters and Greeters Plaza are thrown in for good measure.

Additionally, special arrangements have been made for mothers, including breastfeeding booths, diaper-changing areas, and a family bathroom. Children will have a dedicated play area.

The project, originally with an estimated cost of Tk 13,610.47 crore, got the nod of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) in October, 2017.

However, the cost rose substantially later on as the entire vision changed and it was decided to go for a world class facility with the potential to transform the aviation sector in the long term. The final cost approved for the project stands at Tk 21,400 crore.

JICA, the Japanese government’s international development agency, has been helming the project as the main financier, with a consortium of three leading international firms – Mitsubishi, Samsung C & T (the construction arm of Samsung) and Fujita JV – contracted to implement it. It marked the first and till now only project in Bangladesh for Samsung C&T, the firm behind such international landmarks as the Burj Khalifa, Taipei 101, and the Petronas Towers, among others.