FAISALABAD: The second largest industrial city of Pakistan after Karachi, Faisalabad, is denied direct international flights because of lack of infrastructure of international standards.
International travel has become time consuming, and overhead expenses are increasing due to delivery of goods from other cities. The situation has compelled the industrialists of the city to follow the footsteps of the Sialkot business community and finance the modernisation of the Faisalabad airport to fulfil the requirements and needs of Faisalabad division and businessmen.
The feasibility report suggests that the airport can be upgraded for international flights with an investment of Rs1.24 billion, which includes Rs785 million for a runway and Rs456 million for a terminal.
However, the share of the investment that the business community will shoulder has not been decided yet. The industrialists say that they may pick up to 40 % of the cost but this will be cleared after signing a memorandum of understanding with the authorities.
The business community has already setup a committee for this purpose, which includes the CEOs of several corporate entities.
The airport expansion project is proposed to be built in two phases. In phase one runway, taxiway and apron will be expanded while in the second phase the terminal building will be renovated.
CEO of Sadaqat Limited and convener of this project, Khurram Mukhtar, said while talking to The Express Tribune that the city is forced to send 3,000 tons of cargo per month cargo to other airports of the country, which naturally increases costs.
He added that a direct flight from Faisalabad to Dubai takes just three hours but when we take flights from Lahore or Islamabad the whole day is consumed in local transportation with increased overhead expenses which is severely disturbing the foreign meetings and business deals.
Mukhtar added that due to this project will not only affect industrialists but also the people of Faisalabad.
Mukhtar said that Airblue, Etihad and Emirates have shown interest in starting operations from Faisalabad to various destinations. He added that the Civil Aviation Authority is bearing heavy losses every month; this expansion is expected increase revenue.
Along with Khurram Mukhtar, the committee included, Umer Nazar Shah CEO Hassan Limited, Faiq Javed CEO JK Group of Industries, Ahsan Kamal Director Kamal Group of Industries, Ahmad Shafi Director Crescent Group, Imran Ghafoor Director Sitara Group of Industries, Mian Tayyab CEO Tayyab Group of Industries, Akram Khan CEO Grace Travels, Sultan Hummayon Warraich, Airport Manager, and Muhammad Idrees Rana, Station Manager Pakistan International Airlines. The majority of the cost will also be borne by these conglomerates.
Domestic operation at Faisalabad Airport started in 1958. In 1965, the runway was expanded to accommodate jet aircrafts. In 1966-67 a terminal building for 50 passengers, and Fokker Apron and Executive Lounge for 20 passengers were built in 1985. In 1986 the terminal building was extended to accommodate 150 plus passengers. In 1998 Hajj Operation was started from this airport which was stopped in 2000 later it was resumed via Karachi in 2004-05.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 16th, 2013.