A Biman flight has become the first victim of the nine-hour shutdown period of Shahjalal International Airport's runway, resulting in delay for over 19 hours and causing immense suffering to 314 Jeddah-bound passengers.
Departure of the age-old DC-10 aircraft of Biman Bangladesh Airlines was cancelled around 10:30pm on Sunday as problem surfaced in its GPS (global positioning system) soon after it started taxing, sources said.
Within around half an hour, Biman engineers fixed the glitch, but by the time the runway was shut, and therefore, the airport authorities did not allow the aircraft to take off.
Meanwhile, due to the delay, another 314 passengers, many of who are hajj pilgrims and were supposed to fly in from Jeddah by the DC-10 aircraft, got stuck there.
Biman, however, claims that they arranged boarding at hotels and foods for the stranded passengers in Jeddah.
The flight finally left the airport for Jeddah at 6:00pm yesterday and is supposed to return to Dhaka with the stranded passengers at 9:00am today.
Asked why it was not sent to Jeddah yesterday morning, a top Biman official, wishing anonymity, said, “We could have sent the aircraft at 8:00am, but did not do so because it would have returned during the runway closure time.”
The lone runway at the airport remains shut from 11:00pm to 8:00am every day from December 1 for maintenance work that will continue till April 30, 2013.
The daily airport traffic, which consists of 185 flights including 85 in international routes and handles around 15,000 passengers, will now have to be dealt within the 15-hour window.
Meanwhile, Civil Aviation Minister Faruk Khan had to cancel a scheduled press conference at the airport at 3:00pm yesterday on completion of the Biman's hajj operation this year since the pilgrims could not reach Dhaka in time due to the technical glitch of the DC-10 aircraft.
Biman sources said the hajj operation would be formally wrapped up though with the arrival of the flight, but some pilgrims will be arriving till December 8.
Although the operations in the ground handling, check-in, immigration and customs have so far been going good since the repair work started, passengers are raising complaints of unusual delay in finding luggage in the conveyer belts.
“I landed at the airport at 3:00pm, but it took me two hours to get my luggage,” said Fayzul Ahmed who yesterday returned from Saudi Arabia.