Islamabad’s Benazir Bhutto International Airport has received Rs. 460 million renovation which includes a ‘blast-proof wall’, revamped business lounge and a new taxiway link.
A key component of the project was the construction of a 1,700 feet x 75 feet taxiway link, adjacent to the lone runway which will help to save over Rs. 1 billion per annum by reducing waiting time for aircraft that are ready to land or take-off. It is estimated that the new feature will save Rs. 120 million per month for airlines.
The face-lift is expected to change the impression after last year’s survey conducted by “The Guide to Sleeping in Airports” website which indicated Islamabad’s Benazir Bhutto International Airport as the world’s worst airport.
PM inaugurated the Rs. 460 million newly upgraded facilities at Islamabad Airport
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday inaugurated the Rs. 460 million newly upgraded facilities and fast-track services at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport.
The prime minister was briefed along the way by his Adviser on Civil Aviation Shujaat Azeem. The advisor informed PM Nawaz that the airport now has parking for 700 vehicles, besides a dedicated 375-car parking for the staff, wheelchair access to the entire building, dedicated toilets for the disabled, and free Wi-Fi access. The entire airport has been declared a no-smoking zone. The remarkable feature about the renovation was that no tree was cut during the expansion works.
According to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) officials, a number of missing facilities have been added to the airport during the refurbishment process.
A well-marked parking lot for visitors, a new fast-track building, clean waiting areas and attractive horticulture now greets visitors as compared to a remote region’s decrepit bus stand that welcomed travellers before. The shifting of the parking lot for staffers to an adjacent vacant plot has led to a capacity to park 700 cars for visitors. Where only four toilets were available for visitors in the parking area, 16 ‘modern’ toilets have been built, while as many new ones in the departure lounges.
The concourse hall, where airline offices and food stalls left little space for passengers and those who came to see-off or receive them, has now been cleared of stalls and all airline offices have been centralised.
A simple yet fundamental change at the departure lounge is the placing of officials of Pakistan Customs, Anti-Narcotics Force and Airport Security Force at one counter. However, the officials still practice the obsolete means of physically check luggage instead of adopting modern scanning techniques.
Blast-proof concrete wall
A blast-proof concrete wall has been built in front of the main terminal to separate it from the car park to make the airport more secure, while a ‘fast-track section’ has been constructed near the outer gate to allow passengers with light baggage to enter and leave the airport without hassle.
Business lounge and new check-in facilities
What was referred to as the Rawal Lounge, reserved for VIPs, has been transformed into a ‘business lounge’ with a dynamic look. However, only officials’ entitled to VIP protocol will continue to avail the facility. The lounge also has Wi-Fi access with high-speed internet.
Passengers travelling on business class will be facilitated at separate counters set up in domestic and international departure for boarding.
New taxiway at Islamabad Airport
The much-needed new taxiway at airport will now have a new patch of around 1,700 feet of taxiway. Being built at a cost of Rs. 200 million, the taxiway would save five to ten minutes on average for each aircraft at the time of landing or take off.
Using the new patch that would connect the main runway to the taxiway would make every aircraft vacate the runway immediately after landing. These planes now use more than half of the runway after landing to taxi.
An official at the economic regulation directorate of CAA told reporters this would save Rs 1 billion a year in fuel costs in addition to extra time as more than 100 aircrafts had to wait to get access to the runway before.
Islamabad’s new Airport due to open by end of 2016
Although the inauguration of the new facilities took place today, a new airport in the capital is due to be opened to the public next year.
Earlier in March, the Aviation Division informed the National Assembly standing committee on planning, development and reforms that 80 per cent work on the New Islamabad Airport is complete and the facility would be operational in the last quarter of 2016.
Secretary Aviation Division Mohammad Ali Gardezi told the committee that the cost of the project had increased from Rs37 billion to Rs81 billion.
It might go up further due to the devaluation of the rupee and the price hikes, he had said. Rs40 billion had already been spent on the project till March, he had further said.
According to a senior official, the existing airport will be used by VVIP and domestic flights and the Pakistan Air Force while the new airport will be reserved for general public.