Pakistan Opens Islamabad Airport After Delays
On May 3 Pakistan’s long-awaited Islamabad airport opened after years of delays. The new Islamabad International Airport has a carrying capacity of up to 9 million passengers annually with further room for expansion, potentially able to serve up to 25 million passengers per year by 2025. The airport is located fifteen kilometers from Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, and also serves Islamabad’s sister city of Rawalpindi. While the airport was initially conceived in 1984, it has been plagued with delays and has taken over a decade to build.
Prior to Thursday, Pakistan’s major international airports were Jinnah International Airport, located in Karachi, and Benazir Bhutto International Airport, serving both Islamabad and Rawalpindi. The new airport replaces Benazir Bhutto International Airport, which was renowned for its inefficiency and disorganization.
Civil Aviation Authority Amir Mehboob shared that “the current annual turnover of passengers at the old Benazir Bhutto International Airport was about 4.5 million,” which is half of the 9 million annual passenger capacity expected to utilise the new airport.
The Islamabad International Airport was inaugurated on Tuesday, May 1, by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. The airport spans across 4,238 acres, featuring a four-level passenger terminal, two runways and parking bays. The 34-year project cost over 100 billion Pakistani rupees.
The Islamabad International Airport was opened to the public on Tuesday and commenced flight operations on Thursday. A Pakistan International Airlines flight landed at the airport as part of the inauguration ceremony. Prime Minister Abbasi stated that “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.” He added that he hopes the new airport will serve as a source of development for the area, ideally rising regional trade and employment opportunities.
Several international carriers will operate flights to and from Islamabad International Airport, including Emirates, Qatar Airways, Thai Airways and China Airlines. Pervez George, spokesperson for Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority stated “The new Islamabad International Airport became fully operational from today with the departure and arrival of several domestic and international flights.”
As of now, the airport does not have an official name. However, Prime Minister Abbasi has rejected proposals to name it after former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. Other proposals include Pakistan’s first prime minister Liaqat Ali Khan, social worker Abdus Sattar Edhi, and Fatima Jinnah, who is the sister of Pakistan’s founding father Muhammad Ali Jinnah.