CAA rejects online survey deeming Islamabad airport as world's worst

Published: October 24, 2014
Benazir Bhutto International Airport, Islamabad. PHOTO: AFP

Benazir Bhutto International Airport, Islamabad. PHOTO: AFP

KARACHI: Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on Friday said it does not recognise a survey conducted by a website, which recently declared Islamabad’s Benazir Bhutto International Airport as the worst in the world.

“We strongly contest the findings of that website’s survey,” DG CAA Air Marshal (R) Muhammad Yousaf said in his opening remarks at a press briefing on Friday. “The problem is that no one here bothers to check source of such information.”

Last week news stories based based on a poll by the website Sleeping in Airports was published which placed the Islamabad airport at the head of a list of worst airports in the world.

Yousaf said the purpose of the polling website is to gauge the facilities provided to those who intend to spend the night at the airports. “Even the Saudi authorities have rejected the result.”

As part of its drive to make air travel comfortable for passengers, the CAA has put in place a system to receive complaints for passengers. “And as per our data, the complaints have actually gone down by 40% over past few months.”

However, he admitted that Islamabad airport falls short of meeting standards of an international airport. “It is housed in an old building and over the years we have just kept on adding sections to it.”

Pakistan’s third-largest airport in terms of passenger traffic, Islamabad airport has a capacity to handle about 3 million passengers a year against a flow of 4 million travellers, the DG said.

The CAA DG added that he was taking personal interest in Islamabad airport’s infrastructure. “Washrooms were really dirty. So we are building new ones. Similarly more airline counters are being added to facilitate passengers.”

CAA has been reluctant to invest in the Islamabad airport since a new multi-billion rupee airport is being built near by.

“The new airport is expected to become functional by the end of 2016. It would be the only one in Pakistan with the ability to handle jets the size of Airbus 380. Now that would be something, which can be compared with other international airports.”

The online Guide to Sleeping in Airports carries out annual surveys on its website asking visitors to rate the airports based on a set of questions such as overall experience at the airport, the cleanliness, comfort, and customer service.

Donna McSherry, who founded the website in mid 1990s, told The Express Tribune that the survey was open from September 2013 to August 2014 and over 18,000 people voted.

It remains unclear how many people voted for Islamabad airport or if that response frequency corresponds with the traffic it handles, which is minimal compared to larger airports in other countries.

“There are automatic vote spamming checks involved to prevent users from voting for one airport over and over again,” she said in her response via email.

About the possibility of people from a specific region jacking up votes in favour or against a particular airport, she said the website has checks to see that all votes, positive or negative, are not coming from just one city or country.

She acknowledged that the polling webpage was not recognised by any official body, i.e. the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

The website is frequently quoted by leading media organisations such as the CNN, which also carried the latest survey on October 20.

The Benazir Bhutto International Airport Islamabad handled 4.1 million passengers or 23.25% of overall passengers in Pakistan in fiscal 2013-14, 9.55% more than the traffic it saw in the previous year.

Around 36,000 flights land and take off from the airport every year.

Sorry, CAA can’t get tough

The ‘news’ about flight delays and the resulting inconvenience for the passengers that often receive wide media coverage might be nerve wrecking for the airport managers but the CAA DG says he can’t do much on the matter.

“We have just four airlines – PIA, Shaheen, Airblue and Air Indus. Even they face problems because fares are not sufficient to cover all their costs. They will shut down if we exert any pressure on them,” Yousaf explained.

“If we were getting 100 airlines then definitely we could get tough on them. But the reality is that right now we are having a hard time convincing airlines to come here.”

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Reader Comments (14)

  • wah jee
    Oct 24, 2014 - 9:37PM

    What about Peshawar airport? Surely it must have topped that survey. Best airport in the world!


  • Karima Shah
    Oct 24, 2014 - 10:22PM

    As usual, in typical Pakistani bureaucrat style, all international reports are wrong and biased and the CAA is right. This is the same CAA that has a pathetic safety record, allowing airlines to cannibal parts, and hiding deficiencies to save their own skins. If air travel in Pakistan is to get safer and on par with international standards, then the CAA should be completely revamped and handed over to the private sector with no government influence. It should be run by aviation and safety professionals who do not come under pressure from government or airlines. While Islamabad is the worse airport in the world, Karachi is no better. Lack of investment, infrastructure or facilities for the traveler. And to think at one point, Karachi was a better airport than Dubai! Look at Dubai now ! The world goes ahead, Pakistan goes backward.


  • Sodomite
    Oct 24, 2014 - 10:24PM

    Who cares what CAA thinks. Its public perception that counts. I use Chaklala Airport many times and find it unhygienic, poorly structured, badly functioning conveyor belts, rude and ill tempered customs and immigration officials trying to assist “safarish” arrivals while ordinary tax paying passengers wait in line. The very sight of these receiving line with placards is sight of a third world airport where corruption is endemic.


  • Razi Khan
    Oct 24, 2014 - 10:39PM

    If you would rather put your energies towards improving your service rather than rejecting the claims made by others. We would appreciate that.

    I have been to the Benazir Bhutto Airport in Islamabad and I have nothing good to say about the service you provide. If I can recall correctly, while I was waiting to board my flight to Gilgit and there was a power outage at the airport. Literally pitch dark!

    Not to talk about the 6 days I was stuck in Islamabad because the flight kept getting delayed or rescheduled.

    So before you reject any claims made by anyone else – Improve your service or leave your seat for someone more competent to take over the role!

    gonawazgo #gozardarigo #bilawal is a zardariRecommend

  • RF
    Oct 24, 2014 - 10:42PM

    God only helps those who help themselves. Being in denial is the not the solution, do something about it instead of complaining.


  • Arsalan Janjua
    Oct 24, 2014 - 10:55PM

    Air Marshal Muhammad Yousaf is atleast honest about shortcomings….thats an admirable quality in public servants


  • Parvez
    Oct 24, 2014 - 10:55PM

    How would you know ?…….you use the VVIP facility and I doubt you have even seen how the rest of people are treated.


  • Oct 24, 2014 - 11:46PM

    No no no Nope no. This is just an Israeli conspiracy.
    Land of the Pure cannot have a dirty filthy airport.
    With rude employess who are thugs. looking at ways to
    fleece the illiterate masses coming and going to UAE. Saudia.


  • Baba Ji
    Oct 25, 2014 - 12:46AM

    Yes … Crow is white !!!


  • AVMPolpot
    Oct 25, 2014 - 12:58AM

    CAA rejects…..
    CAA learns from FO.Well done.


  • AVMPolpot
    Oct 25, 2014 - 1:12AM

    I vote Islamabad airport as the best airport in the world.
    Pls reccommend to. Show ur support.


  • Imran
    Oct 25, 2014 - 1:18AM

    This is where the problem lies, we in Pakistan live in denial and do not want to accept our weaknesses. The first step towards improvement is accepting our weakness.

    I frequently undertake both domestic and international from Islamabad airport. The airport is not good at all. There is mismanagement and harassment by airport Customs/FIA directed towards customers which I have experienced myself. Furthermore, I have myself witnessed airport officials giving protocol (bypassing lines & checking, etc) to VIP and families of people with connections.


  • Asfandyar
    Oct 25, 2014 - 1:39AM

    @wah jee:
    I invite you to Peshawar airport….Dalkhor


  • Jawaid
    Oct 26, 2014 - 9:00AM

    This Air martial has no shame at all. Instead of admitting his failure and resigning like a gentleman he is spreading conspiracy theories.


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