Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka
Dhaka’s Shahjalal International Airport is the first point of contact with Bangladesh for many visitors to the country. As the largest airport in Bangladesh, Shahjalal International Airport started operating in 1980, taking over the international air travel traffic from Tejgaon Airport, which is now a domestic airport. Shahjalal International Airport handled 5.6 million passengers and 214,000 metric tons of air cargo in 2012, and has the facilities to serve 8 million passengers per year. So, according to analysts, the airport will not need to be expanded until 2026. Twenty-eight passenger airlines operate from the airport, offering both domestic and international flights. Government-owned Biman Bangladesh Airlines is the airport’s ground handling agency.
The history of Shahjalal International Airport goes back to World War II when the British government built a landing strip on the site as an alternative for the Tejgaon military airport. In 1947, following the creation of Pakistan, Tajgaon Airport gained status as the first civil airport in the area then known as East Pakistan, and today is Bangladesh. In 1966, the Pakistan Government undertook to construct a new airport north of Kurmitola and a railway was built to transport construction materials. Today, this is the passenger railway station serving the airport. The new airstrip was only halfway done when the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War erupted and the airstrip was badly damaged. After Bangladesh gained its independence, construction of the airport was resumed, with Aéroports de Paris as consultants.
The airport started operating with one runway and part of the main terminal complete, being officially opened as Dacca International Airport in 1980 by President Ziaur Rahman. Construction continued for a further three years and during this time President Rahman was assassinated. When the airport was completed in 1983, President Abdus Sattar renamed the airport Zia International Airport in honor of the late president. The airport was renamed Shahjalal International Airport in 2010 in honor of one of the country’s most respected Sufi saint Shah Jalal.
Today, Shahjalal International Airport is an integral part of the economy of Bangladesh, and essential to tourism in the country.