The newly-built Islamabad International Airport building. Image Credit: Reuters

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s biggest and first greenfield airport, Islamabad International Airport, was inaugurated on Tuesday by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, following years of delay.

The flight operations at the airport, however, will commence on Thursday, replacing the old Benazir Bhutto International Airport (BBIA) in twin city Rawalpindi.

Pakistan’s largest international airport is designed to facilitate 15 million passengers annually in the initial phase which would increase to 25 million after its expansion. This is a major improvement as compared to the 4.7 million traffic record of BBIA in 2017.

Constructed at a cost of more than Rs100 billion, the Y-shaped airport is located 30km from the heart of Islamabad’s business centre Blue Area. Pakistan’s most modern airport boasts state-of-the-art equipment and will be country’s first airport to accommodate two double-deck Airbus A380s, the world’s largest aeroplane.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, PM Abbasi said that the new airport reflects the economic development in the country in recent years. “The new Islamabad airport is located at the crossroad of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and it will open a new gateway for the country’s development” offering trade and employment opportunities to the people.

“Aviation is close to my heart personally,” said Abbasi, who is associated with a private airline in the country. Lauding the efforts of Adviser to the PM on Aviation Sardar Mehtab Sardar Mehtab, Air Marshal Salam, Irfan Illahi and other officials, he said: “Aviation is a challenging, dynamic field. It keeps changing rapidly and if we don’t change ourselves we will be left behind.”

Shortly after its inauguration, the airport welcomed its first flight as a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight PK-300 landed at the new airport at 11:15am. The president and CEO of PIA, Mushrraf Rasool Cyan, accompanied the passengers on the flight.

International carriers, including Emirates, Qatar Airways, Thai Airways, China Airlines, Oman Air, Etihad Airways, Saudia, Gulf Air, Kuwait Airways and Turkish Airlines, operate flights to and from Islamabad along with PIA, Shaheen Air, Serene Air and Air Blue.

Main features

Spanning over 4,238 acres of land, the new airport consists of two runways each 3.5km long, 28 aircraft parking aprons, 15 remote bays, a cargo apron for parking of three aircraft, main and emergency runways, taxiways, aircraft maintenance apron and parking bays for wide-body aircraft.

There would be 15 air-conditioned jetways out of which two have been specified for the wide-body aircraft A380. The current Islamabad airport had no boarding bridges and only a few immigration desks, which were insufficient for handling the influx of thousands of passengers.

The four-level terminal building also includes a cargo terminal, fuel farm, state-of-the-art firefighting station and rescue facilities. The airport consists of 90 check-in counters and a parking facility for 2,000 vehicles. Around 1,200 Airport Security Force personnel are expected to be deployed at 85 security towers to ensure safety.

The airport would also comprise of a four-star transit hotel, duty-free shops, food court, a mini-cinema and children’s play area to help ease long layovers.