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Saturday, April 13, 2024

PM inaugurates New Islamabad International Airport after years of delay

News Analysis |

After a long wait of 11-years, Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, officially inaugurated the new Islamabad International Airport on Tuesday. As per the schedule, the airport will be operational for domestic and international flights from May 3rd.

All the flights will be moved from Benazir Bhutto International Airport (BBIA) to the new airport. New Islamabad International Airport, which is located at 25 kilometres from Saddar, Rawalpindi and 20 kilometres from Zero Point, Islamabad, is the biggest airport in the country in terms of landing and passenger handling facilities.

All the commercial and VVIP flights operations will take place in the newly built facility from Thursday. International carriers already operating from Benazir Bhutto International Airport, which includes Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airways, Thai Airways, China Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Oman Air, Etihad Airways, Saudi Airways, Gulf Air, and Emirates Airlines,  will move to the new airport, while Pakistan Airforce will take control of the old facility.

After many delays and claims of non-completion, the government has gone ahead with the inauguration to claim that the project was completed in its tenure.

The planned Inauguration, of Rs. 105 billion, of the new Islamabad airport on April 20th was called off under a cloud of suspicion over its completion. Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) deputy director, General Aamir Mahboob, had told the media that the date of inauguration was changed due to the ongoing final tests at the site. CAA and the government decided to keep the dates of inauguration and operation separate to avoid public gathering at the facility, which would result in any possible unwanted situation.

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To kick-start, the new airport, PIA’s commercial flight PK-300 embarked on a historic journey from Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport to the new Islamabad International Airport and landed at around 11 am in the morning. Captain Farrukh Mirza, having the experience of 25-years, flew the plane along with the first officer, Zuhair Ilyas. The passengers of the flight were offered a special breakfast meal on the special flight PK300. Passengers were also presented with a memorabilia on this historic first flight to land at the New Islamabad International Airport.

Further to this, the President and CEP of PIA, Musharraf Rasool Cyan, accompanied the passengers on the first flight and welcomed them to the new airport. Moreover, another Karachi bound commercial flight PK-301 departed from the new airport for Karachi around 12:30 pm.

Pakistan Airforce has been working closely with CAA and provided the professional help to ensure smooth operations at the new airport. Different aircraft of the PAF, including lightweight super Mushshak trainer, Hercules transport aircraft, and C-130, landed at the new facility to assess its operational capabilities and the quality of landing.  After an earlier delay, CAA was directed to re-check all the provided facilities and re-examine all the operational procedure being provided before the formal inauguration. CAA also showed determination to test the operational capabilities to ensure that efficiency of the system is on par with the international standards.

New Islamabad International Airport, which is located at 25 kilometres from Saddar, Rawalpindi and 20 kilometres from Zero Point, Islamabad, is the biggest airport in the country in terms of landing and passenger handling facilities.

Prior to the proposed inauguration, reports emerged in the media pertaining to a number of the problem facing the new airport. A major water pipeline leakage and non-availability of gas were the main problems besides other minor concerns. Aviation authority has also played down the rumours circulating that the airport is facing water shortages. DG Mahboob elaborated that a dam named-Ramma Dam, measuring 282 acres, has the maximum water capacity of 4,890, which is enough water to fulfil the requirements at the airport for one year.

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Moreover, another dam with the capacity of 700 acres, will be constructed to improve water supply.So far, a whopping Rs. 105billion was spent on the newly built airport and additionally, delays in its construction have definitely increased the cost of the mega project.

Despite the official claims, reports suggest that airport is not ready yet.  Some blocks of the airport, especially for the airport security, are yet to be completed and cleanliness issues remain a problem. Despite the expenditure of such a huge amount, and the long delays in its construction, kitchen for Pakistan International Airlines is not ready and there is no residential facility for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) staff.

The Airport Security Staff (ASF) blocks are not completed yet either. The current facility can only accommodate 1,100 ASF personnel, against the full strength of 2,500 ASF personnel. In addition, there is no electricity in ASF basecamp and generators are used to run the residence. Besides this, ladies hostel, mess, admin and utility blocks are yet to be completed within the stipulated time.