Airfields are not very common in Bangladesh and most of the people are not familiar with air services. There are a few airports operating in the country. The national carrier Biman Bangladesh Airlines and a few private Airlines are in operation in those airports. Government high officials, businessmen, elite people, upper middle class and middle class people are the regular passengers of these airlines at home. Lower middle class people working in Middle East countries, Malaysia and Brunei are the overseas passengers of Bangladesh to those countries. They generally do not use domestic air services of Bangladesh. This is the general picture regarding air services in the country.
But airports are very important for national security and statehood. Airports constructed in this part of this sub-continent mainly during Second World War, particularly for military purposes. In the second world war Japan occupied whole of South-east Asia and after that they were knocking the eastern frontiers of the then British India. Apprehending Japanese attack the British Indian government constructed many airfields for military purposes and takeoff and landing of military aircrafts. That time the British government carried out heavy military build-up and British, Australian and American soldiers gathered in the then East Bengal, especially in Dhaka (Dacca), Jessore, Comilla and Chittagong areas.
It is a long time the airfields of Thakurgaon, Ishurdi and Shamshernagar are out of operation though these airfields were fully operational during Pakistan period. After independence, new airports constructed in Barisal, Rajshahi and Saidpur are now fully operational. But the airports like Thakurgaon, Shamshernagar, and Comilla should be developed now and runways (now abandoned) should be kept all-time ready for national security and economic purposes. The runways located in Lalmonirhat and Tangail should also be ready for all purposes. Moreover, government should construct new airports in Patuakhali and Bhola. However, at the same time the construction work of Khanjahan Ali Airport at Bagerhat should be completed as early as possible.
After independence the importance of air travel has increased manifold and the number of passengers has also increased manifold. When Bangladesh will become a middle-income country, the volume of air passengers and volume of trades through air service will increase rapidly.
We are a disaster-prone country and the usefulness of airfields in post-disaster periods is a proven fact. The Barisal Airport played a significant role in relief operation and rehabilitation programmes of costal people in the post-Cyclone Sidr of 2007. That time US marine force came to Barisal Airport from their fleet stationed in the Bay of Bengal. They used the Barisal Airport as their hub to run their relief and rehabilitation programmes.
Another example. Road communication was totally disrupted and the communication between Rangamati to Chittagong was cut-off during recent incidents of landslides in the Hill districts. Only river route towards Rangamati was operational via Kaptai but this route could not fulfill the purposes. As a result, the people faced many problems. Had there existed an airport in Rangamati or nearby areas, relief operation could have been done there more efficiently.
Maintaining airfields operational is a costly affair, especially those which are not now operational and commercially viable. Only a few airports in the country are possibly now commercially viable. But from the perspective of long-term national interest we should not look into this matter in this way. In the long-run, Bangladesh will become a developed country and the number of air passengers and volumes of cargoes will multiply. So keeping this future need in mind we should keep all the existing airfields in the country operational and complete the work of under-construction airfields as well as construct new airports. Just think about the Payra seaport which will be operational in full swing within 5/6 years. Will there not be a need for airport nearby?