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international airports in pakistan

Written by Paradigm Shift 8:09 pm Pakistan Unveiled, Published Content

International Airports in Pakistan

This article aims to provide you with an insightful exploration of the 11 international airports in Pakistan, offering a comprehensive guide to international travel to and from Pakistan. These airports are equipped with the necessary infrastructure and services to handle both domestic and international flights.
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The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is responsible for the regulation of all airports in Pakistan, ensuring that all airports meet international standards of safety and security.

Allama Iqbal International Airport

The Allama Iqbal International Airport is the second-largest civil airport in Pakistan after Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport. It serves the city of Lahore, which is the capital of the province of Punjab, as well as a significant number of passengers who are travelling inside the province.

Allama Iqbal International Airport - Pakistan

The airport was once called Lahore International Airport, but it was rechristened after Allama Iqbal, one of the forefathers who was instrumental in the establishment of Pakistan. At the moment, there are three terminals at this airport. These are the Allama Iqbal terminal, the Hajj terminal, and the cargo terminal.

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Etihad Airways, which is the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, prepared a specialized aircraft line repair facility in Lahore in 2008. The facility is outfitted with the most up-to-date technology and equipment, which is used for all of Etihad’s day-to-day technical line maintenance, including structural and instrument checks, as well as hydraulic system inspections.

Walton Airport: The Old Airport of Lahore

When Pakistan gained its independence, Walton Airport was the main airport that served the city of Lahore. When Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) bought its first Boeing 720, Walton was not ready to handle the weight of a jet plane. The Pakistani government then decided to build a brand-new airport, which opened in 1962. The airport had a runway and apron that were made to fit even the biggest planes, like the Boeing 747, making it possible for Lahore to welcome people from all over the world.

The old airport was handed over to the military when it was decided that all flights would be moved to the new airport. Later on, the government retook control of the airport from the military and transformed it into a terminal specifically for Hajj pilgrims.

Islamabad International Airport

Islamabad is the capital city of Pakistan and until 2018, Islamabad did not have a dedicated airport, a part of Chaklala Airbase had been used to provide travelling facilities to the residents of Islamabad, Rawalpindi, and the surrounding Pottohar region.

As the number of domestic and international travellers rose, the small terminal became insufficient to handle the load. There was a need to either upgrade the city’s existing Benazir Bhutto International Airport or build a new one. A plan was then initiated to construct the new airport in Islamabad.

In 2007, the former prime minister of Pakistan, Mr Shaukat Aziz, laid the foundation stone of Islamabad International Airport (IIAP) and, in 2018, the airport was opened for domestic and international flights. The International Air Transport Association granted the code (ICAO: OPIS) to the new airport.

Islamabad International Airport covers 19 square kilometres and has 15 passenger boarding bridges, including capabilities for two double-deckers Airbus A380s, the world’s biggest airliner, 15 remote bays, and 3 remote cargo bays. To prevent passenger mixing, the same number of lounges have been erected for each of the 15 bays. The airport has two 3600-meter-long runways.

Since it is an airport in the capital, it often hosts V-VIPs, VIPs, foreign delegations, and business communities. The airport has a passenger capacity of 9 million with seven check-in zones, a total of 112 check-in desks, five-level baggage security systems, a food court, a movie theatre, a children’s play area, and parking for 2,200 automobiles. Aside from the public parking, an airport worker parking lot has been constructed. To help travellers, five conveyor belts for international arrivals and three for domestic arrivals have been built.

Jinnah International Airport

Jinnah International Airport, commonly known as Karachi Airport, was developed in 1924 as per the official website of the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). It is the most significant and first international airport in Pakistan.

Jinnah International Airport became the first commercial airport in South Asia in 1929 and was also used by US forces in World War II. This airport is named after the founder of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. It serves as a major hub for various airlines, including the flag carrier Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and several private airlines.

With a capacity to handle over 12 million passengers annually, the airport plays a crucial role in facilitating regional air travel. Karachi Airport consists of four terminals: Terminals 1, 2, 3, and the iconic Jinnah Terminal.

The construction of Jinnah Terminal, completed in 1992, stands out as the most expensive civil project in Pakistan at that time, with a cost of US $100 million. Familiarising yourself with these terminals can save you valuable time during your travels.

Jinnah International Airport provides excellent connectivity, allowing passengers to reach over 65 destinations worldwide through its extensive flight network. This airport proudly holds the title of being Pakistan’s most significant and busiest, catering to approximately 12 million passengers annually. Every day, an impressive number of around 52,000 passengers, whether travelling domestically or internationally, pass through Karachi’s aircraft.

Jinnah International Airport offers 29 domestic and 50 international counters to efficiently handle the high volume of passengers. Additionally, it provides four exclusive counters for CIP (Commercially Important Person) and PIA (Pakistan International Airlines) business class passengers.

For added convenience, the airport offers fast-track check-in facilities specifically designed for international travellers. Moreover, Jinnah International Airport serves as a significant hub for air cargo operations. It handles a substantial amount of cargo annually, totalling approximately 169,124 metric tons.

Sialkot International Airport

Pakistan’s Export Triangle, consisting of Gujrat, Sialkot, and Gujranwala, is renowned for its production and export of sports goods, surgical instruments, and leather apparel. However, exporters in these cities faced significant logistical challenges when shipping air cargo to major airports like Lahore, Islamabad, and Karachi via Sambrial Dry Port. Security concerns and cautious overseas clients hindered the full export potential of these cities.

Consequently, there was a growing demand from traders, businessmen, exporters, and the general public, particularly overseas Pakistanis, for an airport in the Gujranwala Division. In 2001, the government of Pakistan approved a plan that involved the active participation of exporters with great determination and enthusiasm. Promoters from the private sector were invited to join this ambitious project, leading to the formation and registration of a public limited company called Sialkot International Airport Ltd. (SIAL).

The construction of an international airport in Sialkot was initiated on a Build, Own & Operate (BOO) basis, and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the Ministry of Defence through the Civil Aviation Authority. Following the acquisition of land, construction work began on the project in January 2003. The total cost of the International Airport amounted to approximately Rs. 4 billion.

On 30th November 2007, the operation of domestic and international flights commenced, marking a significant milestone for Sialkot International Airport. The chosen spot is 1034 acres and is 16 km west of Sialkot. It is also 40 minutes by car from the towns of Gujrat and Gujranwala.

The Collector of Customs has set up a full-fledged Air Freight Unit (AFU) at Sialkot Airport, and there is already a secured trucking service between Sialkot International Airport and the airports in Lahore, Islamabad, and Peshawar. With the permission of the Pakistani government, the ASF, Customs, Immigration, MET, and other free support services were set up at this airport.

Sialkot International Airport is a unique private sector project that may be the first of its kind in South East Asia. It has sped up the shipping of export cargo by air and made things easier for a lot of business people and Pakistanis living abroad in this area.

Multan International Airport

Multan International Airport, on the outskirts of the City of Saints, has a long history that dates back to the British Empire. In 1919, the Royal Air Force (RAF) used the region’s enormous expanse to fly aircraft capable of landing on gravel and grass surfaces.

Imperial Airways began civil aircraft operations from Multan airfield in 1934, recognizing the city’s strategic importance within Punjab State. Multan Airport became an important aviation centre after Pakistan obtained independence. Pakistan Airways, the newly founded country’s first airline, began operations from Multan Airport. In the same year, the Multan Flying Club relocated to the airport.

The runway was expanded in 1971, allowing it to accept larger planes and a greater number of passengers. The enlarged runway was 2,743 meters long by 30 meters wide. Following that, in 1977, the airport’s terminal building was expanded to accommodate Boeing 720 aircraft.

Multan International Airport
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Multan International Airport, operated by Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), has a single passenger terminal that handles both domestic and international departures and arrivals. The arrival hall can handle up to 135 passengers at once and is outfitted with kiosks and a conveyor belt system. The departure hall, on the other hand, is noticeably larger and can accommodate up to 300 passengers. A mosque, bathrooms, and roughly 50 check-in counters for various airlines are also available in the departure area.

The construction of the Terminal building (Phase II) at Multan International Airport began in June 2010. During the same year, a new runway was constructed with a Cat-I AFL system and ILS/localizer system. In October 2010, the airport reached a new milestone with the launch of PIA’s first direct Hajj flight. In January 2011, an ICAO Fire Category-9-compliant fire station consisting of eight garages was established. In July 2011, a new ramp was inaugurated that could accommodate up to four aircraft simultaneously.

By April 2012, the AFL had moved its operations to the new vault. In May 2012, development work at the ASF Staff Colony was concluded. In June 2013, a new ATC Tower was constructed, enhancing the airport’s operational capabilities. In September 2013, a brand-new parking facility dedicated to Hujjaz was inaugurated, resulting in the closure of the Haji Camp. In October 2013, the DG Civil Aviation Authority laid the cornerstone for a Muslim prayer centre.

Important construction projects were completed by August 2014, including the CAA Colony, the CAA officers’ and staff’s mess, and a new cargo building. The delivery of an 11 KV electric supply connection to the airport in the 4th quarter of 2014 further improved its infrastructure. The most recent significant update was finished in March 2015. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani, and other high-ranking officials formally opened the new terminal. All operations have now been transferred from the old to the new terminal, with flights increasing as more destinations and routes for Multan are added.

Faisalabad International Airport

Faisalabad International Airport, located in Pakistan’s Punjab province, is a vital aviation facility for the city and its neighbouring areas. The airport’s origins can be traced back to the British Empire. The local government sanctioned the building of a 5000′ by 100′ bricked strip in 1942, which subsequently became obsolete as technology evolved.

In 1958, Pakistan International Airlines began domestic operations, growing the city’s exports and imports via numerous flights from Karachi. The airfield was reconstructed to meet requirements in 1965, with a bitumen surface and a 9000′ by 100′ runway length to handle bigger jet-fueled aircraft.

The improvements in 1966-1967 included the building of an airport terminal and an apron for prop aircraft such as the Fokker F-27 Friendship. Construction of a new parallel runway west of the existing runway in 1972, additional facilities such as a jet airport, taxiway B, an air traffic control building, met offices, a premium lounge, and ils CAT-I, and the extension of the terminal building for international operations in 2000 were all added over the years.

In 2008, the whole terminal building was renovated, improving its overall infrastructure. The Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority performed a thorough evaluation of the airport in 2015, showing plans for modifications to meet IATA and ICAO international standards.

Expansion of the passenger terminal with separate lounges for domestic and international operations, construction of a new cargo complex, extension and upgrade of the runway to handle larger aircraft, construction of a new taxiway, and renovation of aircraft stands and arrival/departure/business class lounges are among the planned upgrades. After this thorough evaluation, many changes and upgrades were made to improve the airport the latest update that was made is the newly reconstructed runway goes into operation on 31st May 2023, for further details on the Faisalabad international airport you can check the Facebook page

Gwadar International Airport

The Gwadar International Airport has been around since the 1960s when the Pakistani government bought Gwadar from the Sultan of Muscat. The first flight took place in 1966. When two weekly trips with Fokker F-27 planes from Karachi to Muscat went through Gwadar, the airport became international. The main building opened in 1984, and the airport started out as a domestic airport. It is thought to be the biggest airport in Balochistan, which helps travellers, especially the people of Gwadar.

In 2008, the new exit and VIP rooms opened. The airport was expanded and improved greatly after China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was initiated in order to accommodate the increasing number of passengers and the introduction of foreign flights. The rise of the Gwadar Port, which is thought to be one of the most important ports in the area, depended on the building of the Gwadar Airport. The first design and development plan for the New Gwadar International Airport was unveiled in 2017. However, it wasn’t until March 2019 that Prime Minister Imran Khan attended a high-profile groundbreaking event to lay the project’s foundation.

Construction on the project also began in October 2019. According to the Pakistan Ministry of Aviation’s official website, the airport construction is part of the $56 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is a cornerstone of China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) program. The Greenfield Airport, which would span 4,300 acres, will be one of the largest in Pakistan and the country’s second airport capable of hosting A380 aircraft. It is anticipated to foster the development of the Gwadar peninsula and increase commerce between Pakistan and China in November 2023. The airport will be managed on an open-sky policy and built under the supervision of the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA).

Peshawar Bacha Khan International Airport

Bacha Khan International Airport, formerly known as Peshawar International Airport, is situated in Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK). It is the fourth busiest airport in the country. On January 27, 2012, the airport was renamed in honor of Abdul Ghaffar Khan, also known as Bacha Khan. He was a well-known British Indian freedom warrior who afterwards turned into a Pakistani Pashtun activist. In comparison to other airports in Pakistan, this one also has a long history.

Peshawar, being the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, provides international links for the majority of the country’s northwest region and surrounding portions of Afghanistan. Afghanistan flights have always been on the rise due to the province’s sizable Afghan Pashtun minority residing within KPK, with families either visiting relatives over the border or seeking a better quality of life in Pakistan. The airport dates back to 1927 when there was a small airstrip that served most of the British Empire and aircraft heading east (e.g., to China and Malaya/Singapore) or west (e.g., to Europe and America). As a result, the city earned the moniker “Gateway to the East” since it bridged traditional oriental culture with modern Western norms.

The airport only became significant after Pakistan got independence from the British Raj. The Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the Pakistan Air Force began using the airfield jointly for both military and civil operations. There were several flights to and from Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, as well as other places within the newly constituted state. The airport gained international status in 1965, when the first flight from Kabul, Afghanistan, to Peshawar, took place. The flight was flown by the national flag carrier, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA). The airport expanded with additional flights and aircraft throughout time, and minor modifications were made on occasion.

It wasn’t until 1981 that the CAA expanded the terminal to accommodate projected passenger demand over the next decade. The apron was fully constructed by 1986 when the airport could accommodate four wide-body planes and two tiny narrow-body planes at the same time. The provincial government met in January 2008 to address the expansion work required to increase the quality of the aircraft in terms of amenities, terminal modernisation, and cargo growth. Air Vice Marshal Sajid Habib, the CAA’s Deputy Director General, stated in June 2008 that five billion rupees had been budgeted to build and enhance Peshawar airport.

Quetta International Airport

The Quetta International Airport was initially a small airstrip and operated under the authority of the British Empire before the partition between Pakistan and India. After gaining independence, in 1954, the first domestic flight service connecting Karachi, Quetta, and Lahore was introduced, which led to the construction of a runway in 1958 by the Human French Company.

Over the subsequent years, the airport experienced growth. In 1964, Fokker commenced its F27 friendship flights from this airport, which necessitated the establishment of the Civil Fokker Apron in 1968 to accommodate the larger aircraft. Boeing also began operating domestic and international flights from the airport in later years.

The terminal building was constructed in 1982, followed by the construction of the control tower. Navigational aids, including the Doppler VHF omnidirectional range (DVOR), were installed in 1984, and the main concourse hall was opened in 2001. Currently, the Quetta International Airport serves as a significant air travel hub in Balochistan province. It operates flights from various domestic and international airlines. The airport also functions as a military base for the Pakistan Air Force.

In March 2020, Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan Alyani inaugurated a new runway and lounge at the airport. The new runway can accommodate aircraft up to the size of a Boeing 777. Chief Minister Alyani praised the Pakistan International Airline (PIA), the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), and other national institutions for their progress in developing the airport. He also highlighted the contributions of PIA and the Pakistan Air Force in teaching other nations to fly and aiding in the establishment of their aviation industries.

Federal Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan also spoke at the inauguration ceremony. He laid the foundation for a mega runway that will be able to accommodate even larger aircraft, such as the Airbus A380. Khan expressed the government’s commitment to developing Balochistan’s aviation sector and said that the new runway will help to boost economic activity in the province.

The development of Quetta International Airport is a significant milestone for Balochistan. The airport is now well-equipped to handle increased passenger traffic, and it will play an important role in the economic development of the province.

Rahim Yar Khan – Shaikh Zayed International Airport

The royal dynasties of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have always had the most interest in Rahim Yar Khan. Owing to this, the region, as well as the city that bears its name and is the district’s headquarters, has a significant relationship with the Arab nation, particularly Abu Dhabi. Sheikh Zayed International Airport is a noteworthy example of this relationship since it was named after Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, a previous ruler of Abu Dhabi who was also the founding father of the UAE.

Sheikh Zayed International Airport is located approximately 5 kilometres southwest of the city. The airport has a rich history, with PIA scheduled flights operating from the old brick runway between March 1st, 1966, and July 1st, 1966. During the devastating 1973 flood, the airport played a crucial role in providing logistics support and transportation for the flood victims.

In 1990, a new runway was constructed, and a flight took place on February 10th of that year. The airport’s growth continued, and operations from the new Terminal Building began on February 15th, 1998. To accommodate larger aircraft such as the B-747, the runway underwent upgrades in 2003, and the first B-747 flight was operated on December 15th, 2003.

Since 2003, the airport has been hosting the royal families of UAE Amiri flights annually. Recognizing its international significance, SZIAP was declared an international airport, with the first international flight operating to Abu Dhabi on April 4th, 2009. Additionally, SZIAP R.Y. Khan has successfully managed Hajj flight operations since 2009.

During the devastating 2010 flood, SZIAP served as a base camp for coordinating logistics and providing food and other supplies to the flood victims. In terms of commercial flights, Air Blue began its operations in Islamabad and Karachi, inaugurating its first flight on April 9th, 2013. However, Air Blue unexpectedly suspended its operations to and from SZIAP in September 2013 without providing any reasons. Nonetheless, SZIAP persevered, and Airblue resumed flight operations from the airport in July 2014.

Skardu Airport

Skardu Airport, located in the scenic Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan, is an international civil airport that stands majestically at a height of 7316 feet. Notably, it functions as a commercial airport as well as a forward operating facility for the Pakistan Air Force. Originally built for military purposes by the Pakistan Army Corps of Engineers in 1976, Skardu Airport today offers regular and frequent flights connecting Skardu to Islamabad and other major cities in Pakistan. These flights are mostly operated by Pakistan International Airlines and Airblue.

Skardu Airport, located about 18 kilometres northwest of the city, provides visitors with a breathtaking view of the gorgeous Indus River and the snow-capped mountains that surround the region. It has two runways, one of which is no longer active, and the other is the longest in the country, reaching 3657 meters and having a Pavement Classification Number (PCN) of 40. The airport’s aprons can accommodate up to three Boeing 737s at the same time.

Every year, a large number of Pakistani and foreign tourists arrive at Skardu Airport to begin a voyage of discovery and amazement. They come to see the breathtaking grandeur of places like Satpara Lake, Shangrila Resorts, Kachura Lake, Manthoka Waterfall, Deosai Plains, Shigar Fort, and Khaplu Fort. Several development initiatives are currently underway to improve the airport’s services and meet the growing number of travelers.

Skardu Airport was officially designated and re-inaugurated as an international airport on December 2, 2021, cementing its status as an important tourism hub for the Gilgit-Baltistan area. The airport’s improvements have opened the way for its first international flight from Dubai, which is slated to arrive on Pakistan’s Independence Day, August 14th. Since then, the airport has become a magnet for international visitors looking to immerse themselves in Gilgit-Baltistan’s spectacular natural surroundings and rich cultural diversity.

Sukkur Airport: Begum Nusrat Bhutto International Airport

The construction of Sukkur Airport took place in 1972, and it now has a prominent status as the second busiest and biggest airport in the province of Sindh, trailing only Karachi’s esteemed Jinnah International Airport. The airport underwent a renaming process in 2012, resulting in its new designation as Begum Nusrat Bhutto International Airport Sukkur. This change was made in honor of Begum Nusrat Bhutto, a prominent public figure of Kurdish descent who was born in Iran and held the respected position of First Lady of Pakistan from 1971 to 1977.

Sukkur Airport predominantly serves internal flights, although it also facilitates international travel during the Islamic month of Hajj. During this propitious period, a multitude of foreign planes depart from this airport, embarking towards the sacred cities of Madina and Jeddah, with the purpose of facilitating the trip of pious pilgrims. The airport serves a crucial function in enabling transportation and enhancing connections both within the local area and to destinations abroad.


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