Islamabad International Airport is the newest commercial airport in the world. It opened on 3 May 2018 with great fanfare and a lot of national pride for Pakistan. The new airport has hopes to become one of Asia’s major aviation hubs and also to cast Pakistan in a new modern world light. This forward thinking has resulted in a beautiful, ultramodern, spacious, gleaming passenger terminal with shiny marble floors and soaring glass walls designed to initially handle nine million passengers per year. The airport serves Islamabad, the capital city of Pakistan, Rawalpindi, and the Northern provinces of Pakistan.
Planning for the Islamabad International Airport started in January 2005 to replace the aging Benazir Bhutto International Airport. Benazir Bhutto International served the region well from the 1930’s as both a commercial passenger airport and a military airfield. However, over time it became outdated, crowded, dark, dirty, and inadequate to handle increasing operations. Expansion was not easily obtainable. Existing bordering neighborhoods would have had to been acquired, have their residents relocated, and have their buildings destroyed in order to proceed with expansion. The decision to build a totally new airport to represent the modern, forward vision of the country’s capital was reached and a location 20 kilometers west of Islamabad was selected.
As mentioned, the new airport features an ultramodern four level passenger terminal. Features of the new terminal include 15 direct access aircraft gates, 13 remote bus accessible gates, large, bright, spacious gate waiting areas, clean, modern lavatory facilities, a food court, duty free shops, prayer rooms, and a transit hotel for international flight passengers. The international section of the new terminal provides 40 immigration counters to efficiently handle arriving passengers and 30 to handle departing passengers. Other improvement features of the new airport include two runways, wide taxiways, large tarmac zones, and a dedicated cargo facility. A huge bright spot of the new location is that as demand necessitates other runways and additional gates may be added within the 4,300 acres of land that was acquired with future expansion in mind. New multilane motorways were also constructed to transport passengers from Islamabad and Rawalpindi. New dedicated bus lanes are under construction for the Islamabad Metro Bus which provides mass transit services within the region.
Airlines Serving Islamabad International
PIA Pakistan International Airlines is the leading airline at Islamabad International. The airport is one of its main hubs with nonstop flights to more than 30 destinations throughout the region and the world. Airblue and Shaheen Air also have major operations at the airport. They operate nonstop flights to several destinations in Pakistan and the Middle East. The other carriers include Air Arabia, Air China, China Southern, Emirates, Ethiad, Flynas, Gulf Air, Kam Air, Kish Air, Kuwait Airways, Oman Air, Qatar Airways, Safi Airways, Saudia, SaudiGulf, Thai, and Turkish Airlines.
Overall passenger comments have been amazingly good. Visitors are impressed with the stunning ultramodern facilities, the improved technological features, the pride that airport workers exhibit when interacting, and the feeling that the airport is comparable to any top class international facility in the world.