Pakistan’s biggest and first greenfield airport here was today inaugurated by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi after years of delay. The Islamabad International Airport, costing more than Rs 100 billion, became operational after first commercial flight, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) PK-300, landed from Karachi. PIA spokesman Mashood Tajwar confirmed that the national flag carrier safely landed at the airport.
“Another PIA plane will be the first flight to depart from the airport when PK-301 commercial flight will take off for Karachi at around 12.30pm,” he said earlier. “The New Islamabad International Airport spans over an area of 4,238 acres of land, and it is the first greenfield airport in the country. The airport is equipped with the latest technology and best services for the passengers,” Pakistan’s press information department tweeted.
It is capable of serving nine million passengers and 50,000 metric tonne of cargo every year in its first phase, while the modular design enables expansion to serve up to 25 million passengers every year by 2025. The plan to construct a new airport in Islamabad had been conceived just under 40 years ago in 1980 but work on the international-standard greenfield airport hit a number of snags and delays over the years. Abbasi said that although Pakistan’s “liberal, open sky scheme” has been criticised, the policy has been kept in place because the government believes that the “passengers should have choices”.
“Aviation is a challenging, dynamic field. It keeps changing rapidly and if we don’t change ourselves we will be left behind,” he stressed. “It is very easy to criticise and hurl accusations,” he said, adding that those in government have to deal with challenges unknown to critics. Abbasi further said that the project was nowhere in completion when Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government took over in 2013 but it was completed due to sheer hard work and determination. Strict security measures were in place for the inauguration which was initially panned on April 20 but delayed due to some technical problems and security issues.
Officials said that full flight operations will be shifted to the new airport on May 3 from the old Benazir Bhutto International Airport (BBIA). The new airport is located about 35 kilometres in the west of the capital, close to M-1 and M2 modern motorways. The government has also been criticised by opposition for hasty inauguration when civic work on the main highway and modern public transport lane linking airport with capital is still continuing. Equipped with cutting-edge technology and state-of-the-art facilities for passengers, the new airport is also the largest airport of Pakistan. The airport is connected to the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad.