ISLAMABAD: After facing criticism from lawmakers and media on the delay in completion of the new airport at Fatehjang, the Civil Aviation Authority is carrying facelift of the old Benazir Bhutto International Airport by adding new features to it.
The airport was declared the worst in terms of facilities for passengers by an international travel and aviation website, Guide to Sleeping in Airports, last year.
The criticism has apparently moved the authorities to improve the existing and add some new facilities to the airport costing Rs380 million and give it a new look.
A new taxiway is being built to save over Rs90 million to the aviation industry per year. The 1,700 feet long and 75 feet wide taxiway will help immediately clear the main runway as soon as a plane completes landing.
The addition of the strip will save 10 to 15 minutes time in every landing and take-off, Assistant Manager Works Abdul Shakoor Tahir told The Express Tribune. Presently, every aircraft takes a U-turn and uses the same runway for taxiing after making a landing on the main runway. Resultantly, every aircraft has to wait till the runway clears before takeoff or making a landing.
More than 100 routine commercial flights — domestic and international — operate from the Benazir Bhutto Airport every day.
The airport manager, Ayaz Jadoon, said that in addition to the routine commercial flights around 30 to 35 military aircraft use the airport daily.
Sharing statistics of the passenger load he said, over 4.3 million domestic and international passengers used the airport in 2013.
“More than 12,000 passengers use this airport every day. In addition, 35,000 to 45,000 visitors come to the airport to see off or receive the passengers,” he said.
The load at the BBIA is much more than Allama Iqbal Airport at Lahore. But facilities at the Islamabad airport is not even one-thirds of Lahore” he claimed.
International departure longue
A bomb-proof boundary wall on the road side and a new fast track building with three drop lanes each are near completion. The new building would house CAA offices and food chain outlets.
An official of the NLC, which was awarded the contract, said that the project also included refurbishing of the international departure lounge and addition of new check-in counters, construction of offices for the airlines and 18 new stalls are being built at the same vicinity.
Enhanced space at for Parking
CAA has extended the much-needed visitor’s parking space. A land adjacent to the airport has been acquired on lease from army to build car parking space for the employees of the airport and airlines.
All the staff cars are parked in the new parking lot and the old one has been reserved for visitors only which will facilitate 300 cars — though it still fails to meet the parking space requirement.
CAA officials claim that now around 650 cars can be parked in the general parking at all times.
The issue of toilets is also being taken care of. Ironically, only two toilets were built for the general public. As many as 16 new standard toilets are now being built in the parking lot area and 21 inside the airport building for the passengers.
CAA officials said the old sewage system had been replaced.
The CAA has been criticised for spending money on the old airport while the new airport is simultaneously being built. Questions are also been raised why the NLC was awarded the contract. When questioned, the office of Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Aviation reasoned that the NLC was chosen owing to the sensitivity of the work and its expertise in the field.
“Till the new airport gets functional we needed to facilitate the people” a CAA spokesman said. Moreover, he said NLC would not only finish the work within the stipulated time of three to four months but could also be held accountable in case of complaints.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 3rd, 2015.