Islamabad International Airport IATA: ISB, ICAO: OPIS) is the main international airport serving the Islamabad-Rawalpindi metropolitan area and its suburbs. It is built 20 km west of the twin cities near the Kashmir Highway and Motorway Interchange.
Islamabad is the capital city of Pakistan and one of the major destinations for tourists travelling to the country. With the high number of diplomats, foreign representatives, and local population travelling to the city, there was a need to either upgrade the city’s existing Benazir Bhutto International Airport or build a new one entirely. As such, a plan was developed to construct the new Islamabad International Airport (IIA), near the Kashmir Highway and the Motorway Interchange, some 20 kilometres outside the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
The airport began its operations on the 20th of April in 2018. It is the largest airport in Pakistan to date, with room for expansion. As such, if you are flying anywhere around the world or even within the country from this airport, you should know exactly what you can expect from IIA.
We have listed the main facilities featured at Islamabad International Airport, but first, let’s talk about the history of the now-defunct Benazir Bhutto International Airport and a little bit about the design and features of the new IIA.
The terminal has 15 gates and 42 immigration counters. It also contains two runways, both of which are 3,600 metres long. A third runway might also be built by the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) soon.
A distinguishing feature of the airport is that it is the only one in the country that can handle the Airbus A380, which is the largest aircraft in the world to date. Along with several duty-free shops, the airport is also home to a four-star hotel, a food court, as well as car parking facilities for a total of 2,200 vehicles, and a separate parking space for the airport staff.
The infrastructure of Islamabad International Airport was designed by a French company, Aéroports de Paris Ingénierie or ADPI for short. However, the terminal building itself was designed by a Singaporean firm, CPG Corporation.
Having these engineering firms on board for the project has produced significant results, with the design being environment-friendly and sustainable. The terminal building, in particular, uses daylight as its primary source of light with sun shading technology that helps cut down on the cooling costs. The roof also has a water conservation system in place.
After the completion of the project, the project’s management was handed over to the US-based, Louis Berger Group.
WHAT TO EXPECT AT ISLAMABAD INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
Now that you know how and why the new airport was built, here’s everything you need to know before heading to IIA:
SECURITY CHECK AT THE ENTRANCE
All entry points of the airport are subjected to a body and under the vehicle search. All visitors are, therefore, requested to cooperate with the Airport Security Force (ASF) personnel present at the entry points. People entering into the airport are also required to have either their NIC, a valid airline ticket or their passport with them to enter the airport.
WHEN TO ARRIVE FOR YOUR FLIGHT?
Domestic Passengers travelling from IIA are advised to arrive at least 1 to 2 hours before their flight. Meanwhile, international passengers should try to arrive at least 4 hours prior to the scheduled time of their flight.
CAR PARKING FACILITIES
IIA offers both short and long term car parking facilities and the parking bays for both are marked accordingly. However, parking the car will be at the owner’s risk as the airport authorities will not be responsible for the loss of belongings or theft. Only cars marked with a CAA sticker can be parked in the designated staff parking area. Around 2,200 cars can be parked in the general car park at IIA with the following parking fee:
Motorcycles: Rs. 15 per entry
Private/Commercial 4-Wheelers (Cars, Jeeps, Wagons): Rs. 90 per entry
Public Transport/Hotel Shuttles: Rs. 400 per day or Rs. 4,500 per month (multiple entry pass)
Monthly Pass for Airport Personnel: Rs. 600 per month (multiple entry pass)
PASSENGER FACILITATION SERVICES (PFS)
Also called Passenger Porter Services (PPS), the services are available 24/7 on the airport. Hiring a porter to help you with your luggage is a choice for all passengers but is specifically recommended for people carrying heavy or extra baggage.
Porters can take your luggage from the entrance of the terminal building to the airline’s check-in desk for departing passengers. They can be hired from the Porter Service Desk for this purpose.
For arriving passengers, porters can collect your luggage from baggage claim and transport it to the exit of the building. Porters can be found within the Arrivals Lounge near the Baggage Claim area. Departing passengers can find porters in the concourse area before they show their passport and enter the terminal gates.
Passengers are requested only to hire porters wearing the official uniform and to pay them only once. Charges for porters for domestic and international travellers differ slightly:
Porters for Domestic Passengers: Rs. 200
Porters for International Passengers: Rs. 400
ASSISTANCE TO PEOPLE HAVING SPECIAL NEEDS AND THE ELDERLY
While the Airport Medical Centre next to the CAA Mosque can cater to emergencies of any kind, if you or your travel companions are in need of special or medical assistance, you should inform your airline of the requirements beforehand. The services can then be availed from the airline’s counter in the arrival and departure halls. This includes the provision of a wheelchair for the elderly and other concerned individuals.
ATMS AND CURRENCY EXCHANGE SERVICES
A number of banks have their ATMs located within the Islamabad International Airport. If you want to know whether your bank is among them, you can check the bank’s website or call up their helpline. The airport is also home to several money exchange service counters to facilitate foreign travellers with the conversion of currency.
Complimentary Baggage Trolleys are available to help you transport your luggage from one counter to another. You can collect one of the 2,200 trolleys at the airport from their designated parking spaces.
Special Hotel Reservation Counters can help you book a room in one of the top hotels in the city during long layovers.
Shopping Opportunities at numerous restaurants, shops, and duty-free areas.
CIP Airlines Lounge for domestic and international first/business class passengers at a small fee of Rs. 500 per head (domestic) and USD 15 per head (international).
Free Public Wi-Fi after registration of your Pakistani or international phone number.
Golf Cart Car Service inside domestic as well as international arrival and departure lounges.
Free Mobile Charging Booths in the departure halls to ensure your device is charged and ready to use.
Prayer Rooms for both men and women in the lounges.
Car Rental Counters for reputable rental companies.
Enclosed Smoking Areas in all the lounges.
Baggage Wrapping Facility for both domestic and international passengers, charging Rs. 50 per bag.
These are just a few of the many facilities and services available at the Islamabad International Airport with many more being developed to serve passengers better. Now that you know what to expect when you fly from IIA, we wish you a safe trip to your destination.
The airport commenced full operations on 3 May 2018, replacing the defunct Benazir Bhutto International Airport which now forms part of the PAF Base Nur Khan. It is one of the largest airports in Pakistan in terms of passenger capacity, capable of serving 9 million passengers every year in its first phase. Further planned expansions will allow it to serve up to 25 million passengers a year. The terminal includes 15 gates with ten remote gates, duty-free shops, a food court and 42 immigration counters. Additionally, Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority is acquiring 2,833 acres (11.46 km2 / 4.42 sq mi) of land to build a third runway at the airport. Furthermore, it is the first and only airport in Pakistan capable of handling the Airbus A380. A metro road track has been built to connect the airport with Islamabad for commuters, expected to be operational during the second half of 2020.
History and details
The plan to construct a new airport was announced in January 2005 by the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority. A land of 3,242 acres (1,312 ha) land was acquired at the cost of Rs 2.5 billion in November 2005 near Ranjha, Fateh Jang in Attock District.
The construction of a new airport was planned in response to increasing air traffic and passenger loads at the existing Benazir Bhutto International Airport. It was estimated that the number of passengers at the former airport was growing by 14 percent annually compared to the national air passenger growth rate of less than four percent, making it the second busiest airport in the country at the time. Therefore, a site in Attock district was selected as the site for the construction of a new airport just a few kilometers from the Islamabad interchange on M-1/M-2 motorways. The foundation stone of the project was laid by former President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz on 7 April 2007.
It was a project of the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) and designed by French company Aéroports de Paris Ingenierie (ADPi) and CPG Corporation of Singapore. The whole project was financed by PCAA on its own. It is built on more than 3,200 acres of land and consists of a passenger terminal building, 2 runways, taxiways, and apron and parking bays for wide-body aircraft. There is also a cargo terminal, air traffic control complex, fuel farm, as well as a fire, crash, and rescue facility. The site of the airport is near Fateh Jang Attock, some 20 km from Zero Point, Islamabad and 23 km from Saddar, Rawalpindi. The airport was developed to be on par with international standards to serve as a major hub for all aviation activities in Pakistan.
The PCAA asked a team of British architects to design the new airport. PCAA signed an agreement with the Louis Berger Group in the US in association with Pakistani consulting firm GT AASR, to undertake project management services. On 1 May 2018, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi officially inaugurated the new airport. This was followed up with the airport commencing full commercial flight operations on 3 May 2018 and thus replacing the old airport.
On 8 July 2018, the first Airbus A380 landed in Islamabad, arriving as Emirates flight EK-2524 from Dubai International Airport. This was the first time an Airbus A380 had landed in Pakistan.
Since August 2019, Pakistan International Airlines has shifted its hub for international flights from Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport to Islamabad International Airport. International traffic of PIA mainly originates from the northern areas of the country due to which the national carrier decided to move most of its schedule to the capital city.
Islamabad International Airport has a 180,000m² modular terminal building which is capable of handling 9 million passengers and 80,000 metric tons cargo per annum. The numbers are expected to reach 25 million passengers by 2024. Being a new airport, a significant portion of the land has been earmarked for commercial purposes such as duty-free shops, a hotel and convention center, air malls, a business centre, food courts, and leisure and cinema facilities.
Airlines and destinations
Ras Al Khaimah
Abu Dhabi, Dubai–International, Jeddah, Karachi, Riyadh, Sharjah
London–Gatwick (begins 31 October 2021), London–Heathrow (ends 30 October 2021)
China Southern Airlines
Guangzhou, Kunming, Ürümqi, Wuhan
Pakistan International Airlines
Abu Dhabi, Bahawalpur, Beijing–Capital, Chitral, Dammam, Doha, Dubai–International, Gassim, Gilgit, Jeddah, Kabul, Karachi, Kuala Lumpur–International, Lahore, London–Heathrow, Manchester, Medina, Multan, Muscat, Oslo, Quetta, Rahim Yar Khan, Riyadh, Saidu Sharif, Sialkot, Skardu, Sukkur, Ta’if, Tokyo–Narita, Toronto–Pearson
Karachi, Quetta, Sharjah
YTO Cargo Airlines Ürümqi
Busiest routes at Islamabad International Airport (by number of flights weekly)
Rank City Country Number of flights Airlines
Pakistan 74 Airblue, Pakistan International Airlines, Serene Air
United Arab Emirates 33 Airblue, Emirates, Pakistan International Airlines
Saudi Arabia 30 Airblue, Pakistan International Airlines, Saudia
4 Abu Dhabi
United Arab Emirates 27 Airblue, Etihad Airways, Pakistan International Airlines
Qatar 18 Pakistan International Airlines, Qatar Airways
Pakistan 17 Pakistan International Airlines
Pakistan 15 Pakistan International Airlines, Serene Air
Saudi Arabia 13 Flynas, Pakistan International Airlines, Saudia
Pakistan 12 Pakistan International Airlines
Oman 12 Oman Air, Pakistan International Airlines
The airport is connected to Islamabad via the Kashmir Highway and Rawalpindi via the GT Road (Highway N-5). A four-lane highway is also under construction to serve cargo traffic. The Islamabad Metrobus is also being expanded to connect to the airport.