Islamabad international airport: CAA shrugs off ‘world’s worst’ epithet

Rejects website’s result, DG says complaints have in fact gone down.

Saad Hasan October 24, 2014


Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has refused to recognise findings of an international 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,” CAA Director General 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 the source of such information.”

Last week, international and local newspapers ran stories based on online polls by “The Guide to Sleeping in Airports”. Islamabad airport was declared the worst, beating Jeddah and Kathmandu.

Yousaf said the purpose of the polling website is to gauge facilities provided to those who intend to spend the night at 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. “And as per our data, the complaints have actually gone down by 40% over the past few months.”

But, at the same time, he acknowledged that Islamabad airport indeed falls short of meeting the requirements 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, the Islamabad airport has a capacity to handle around 3 million passengers a year against a flow of 4 million, the DG said.

CAA was also reluctant to invest in the Islamabad airport because of the multi-billion rupee new airport being built near the federal capital, he said.

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

Nevertheless, Yousaf said that he is taking a 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.”

The Guide to Sleeping in Airports carries out annual surveys on its website, asking visitors to rate based on a set of questions like overall experience, 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 large 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 an emailed response.

About the possibility of people from a specific region jacking up votes in favor or against a particular airport, she said that 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 is not recognised by any official body like the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The website is frequently quoted by leading media organisations like 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, up 9.55% over the traffic it saw in the previous year.

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

CAA cannot afford to get tough

Flight delays and the resulting inconvenience for the passengers that often receive wide coverage might be nerve-wrecking for airport managers but the CAA official says he can’t roll heads on the matter.

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

“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.”

Published in The Express Tribune, October 25th, 2014.

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bahadur khan | 7 years ago | Reply In sub continent we have to be little careful of western standards. In Air India some 100 pilots were flying without license for 6 months, Till the time the condition changes , retired pilots are needed to properly explain to media, western auditors, the improvements, Ex -Defence staff english is also good. Now a days even the english level of new pilots is worse.They are in age group 25-30. Can you expect them to handle emergency
Adnan | 7 years ago | Reply

Shame on CAA for trying to make excuses through false statements rather than admitting their mistakes and trying to improve.

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