ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Tuesday, 1 May, inaugurated country’s biggest, and first Greenfield airport equipped with best available technology, Islamabad International Airport.
The flight operations at the airport, however, will commence on Thursday, replacing the old Benazir Bhutto International Airport (BBIA) in Rawalpindi.
Country’s largest international airport, in terms of landing and passenger handling facilities, 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. The country’s most modern airport boasts state-of-the-art equipment and will be country’s first airport to accommodate double-deck Airbus A380s, the world’s largest aeroplane.
Full flight operations will be shifted to the new airport on May 3. All commercial and VIP flights from Benazir Bhutto International Airport (BBIA) will be moved to the new airport.
International carriers, including Emirates Airlines, Qatar Airways, Thai Airways, China Airlines, Oman Air, Etihad Airways, Saudi Airways, Gulf Air, Kuwait Airways and Turkish Airlines, operate flights to and from Islamabad along with PIA, Shaheen Air and Air Blue.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, PM said that he hoped the new airport was the epitome of development in the country and would enhance trade and employment opportunities for the people of the region.
“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.
According to a Civil Aviation Authority official, later on, another flight of the PIA departed from the new airport for Karachi at 12:30 pm.
In his speech, the prime minister said the new airport with modern facilities reflects the economic development that has been taking place in the country during the last five 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,” said the prime minister.
Abbasi asked the CAA to look after the aviation in an open manner as it was very challenging and open field and there was a need to further improve it to encourage new local and foreign carriers. Otherwise, he warned, the country would be left far behind and cited the example of the national flag carrier. He said PIA did not rise to the market needs, the challenges and the opportunities and fell behind, despite being a leader in its class. He regretted that a country with 207 million population only has less than 50 modern aircraft registered.
The PM directed the Mayor and the concerned ministries to urgently ensure provision of quality public transport system for the passengers and the staff. The airport is around 30 kms from Zero Point Islamabad and the construction work on the Rawalpindi Islamabad Metro project is under process.