Jinnah International Airport (IATA: KHI, ICAO: OPKC), formerly Drigh Road Airport, is Pakistan’s busiest international and domestic airport, and handled 7,267,582 passengers in 2017-2018. Located in Karachi, the largest city and commercial capital of Pakistan and capital of the province of Sindh, it is named after Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan.
The airport is managed by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), and serves as a hub for the national flag carrier, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), Airblue, and many other private airlines. The airport is equipped with aircraft engineering and overhauling facilities including the Ispahani Hangar for wide-body aircraft.
Imperial Airways was one of the first airlines to fly to Karachi in March 1929; back then Pakistan was a part of India.
- R. D. Tata, the father of civil aviation in British India made the maiden voyage from Juhu Aerodrome in Bombay (now Mumbai) to Drigh Road airstrip (now Jinnah International Airport), Karachi, via Ahmedabad, on 15 October 1932 carrying mail in a Puss Moth aircraft.
During the late 1920s and early 1930s, there was a large black coloured airship hangar at the site of Karachi Airport, constructed for the British HMA R101, at the time, the largest aircraft ever built. Only three hangars were ever built in the world to dock and hangar Britain’s fleet of passenger airships. However, the R101 never arrived in Karachi (then part of the British Raj) as it crashed and exploded just 8 hours into its maiden flight over Beauvais, France, killing all but 6 of its 54 passengers and crew. This hangar was so huge that aircraft often used it as a visual marker while attempting VFR landings at Karachi. Over the years, the hangar became known as the landmark of Karachi, until it was demolished by order of then-President Ayub Khan in the 1960s.
During World War II, Karachi Airport was a major transhipment base for United States Army Air Forces units and equipment being used by Tenth Air Force in eastern India, Burma and the Fourteenth Air Force in China. Several operational bomber and fighter units flew into Karachi for short organisational periods prior to their deployment. Air Technical Service Command had extensive facilities where aircraft were received, assembled and tested prior to being flown to their combat units at forward airfields. It also functioned as a major maintenance and supply depot for both air forces. In addition, Air Transport Command flew numerous cargo and passenger flights to the Middle East and to points within British India and China.
The airport facilities were further expanded in the 1980s to Terminal 2 and Terminal 3 respectively. The present day infrastructure of Jinnah International Complex is a result of an expansion programme carried out in 1994. Today, the new Jinnah Terminal handles both domestic and international flights, whereas Terminal 2 is now dedicated to Hajj operations. Terminal 1 (the original airport) is now the HQ of Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority and Terminal 3 is dedicated to commercial offices.
Karachi was once a much busier airport. Between the 1960s and 1980s it was an online station of several airlines of the world including Qantas, Pan Am (now operating via codeshares with Delta/Virgin Atlantic to other airports), Air India, BOAC, British Airways (now operating via codeshare with Qatar Airways and directly to Islamabad and Lahore), Interflug, TAROM, Alitalia (now operating via codeshare with Etihad), JAT Serbian Airlines, Aeroflot, Lufthansa, Swissair, SAS, Air France, KLM (now operating via codeshares with Etihad and Gulf Air), UTA, Philippine Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, Japan Airlines, Libyan Arab Airlines, Nigeria Airways, EgyptAir, East African Airways, Kenya Airways (now operating via codeshare with Etihad and Oman Air), Kuwait Airways (now operating to Lahore and Islamabad), Syrian Air, Royal Jordanian and MEA. Other former airlines were Azerbaijan Airlines, Taban Airlines, Yemenia, Gulf Traveller, Kyrgyzstan Airlines, Tajik Air, Turkmenistan Airlines, Uzbekistan Airways (now operating to Lahore), Air Kazakhstan, Ariana Afghan Airlines, Air Ceylon, Indian Airlines, Transportes Aéreos da Índia Portuguesa, Royal Nepal, Biman, GMG Airlines, United Airways, CAAC Airlines (now known as Air China and operating daily to/from Karachi and Islamabad), Cathay Pacific (in advanced talks with CAA to resume Karachi service), Malaysia Airlines, Braathens SAFE, Transports Aériens Intercontinentaux, Swiss International Air Lines, Eritrean Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines and ZAS Airlines. However, due to the emergence of Dubai’s airport on the world map, increased usage of longer haul aircraft, expensive fuel prices in Pakistan and the poor political climate of Karachi during the 1990s, several airlines discontinued their service to the airport.
In the past couple of years has seen a reversal in fortunes. The dwindling number of international airlines has stabilised and whilst there has not been a marked increase in the number of airlines flying into Karachi, some have either increased the number of flights or resumed their old operations, either directly or via codeshare service.
As air traffic in Pakistan increased by staggering 40% in the last 5 years, five new airlines (Askari Air, Air Siyal, Go Green, Liberty Air and Afeef Zara Airways) are expected to venture into Pakistan’s aviation industry by 2019, in the latest sign of intensifying competition in the backdrop of an open skies policy. This will not only bring a positive competitive environment and reduce passenger fares, but will also pose fresh challenge requiring a serious policy review to Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) which is crippled by its own political vested interests.
Jinnah International Airport has a capacity of handling 12 million passengers annually. In fiscal year 2008–2009, over 5,725,052 passengers used Jinnah International Airport. 50,095 aircraft movements were registered. It is the primary hub of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA). All other Pakistani airlines also use Jinnah International Airport as their main hub. These include Airblue and SereneAir as well as several charter carriers. The building is linked via connecting corridors to two satellites, each having a provision of eight passenger-loading bridges. The eastern satellite is devoted exclusively to handling international operations. The western satellite is used for domestic operations, as well as some international operations. This is achieved through a flexible arrangement of gates. The two satellites supplement the departure lounges of the terminal building and also provide shopping facilities, mobile recharging points, and snack counters.
The Jinnah Terminal was completed in 1992 at a cost of US$100 million at the time the most expensive civil construction project in Pakistan. NESPAK (National Engineering Services Pakistan) and Airconsult (Frankfurt, Germany) were responsible for the architecture and planning of the terminal. Sogea Construction, a French company, was the contractor. Mukhtar Husain and Abdul Malik (NESPAK) were the Chief Engineers for the new terminal. In Karachi, the CIP Lounge can be used by all first and business class passengers on all outbound flights. Barclays, UBL and airblue have also introduced their dedicated lounges in the international terminal of the airport. There are a number of bank kiosks and ATMs that passengers can use at the airport. The airport is also where the majority of PIA’s maintenance network is located, although some of its maintenance work also takes place at Benazir Bhutto International Airport, Rawalpindi. There are several hangars at the airport; the largest being the Ispahani Hangar (named after Mirza Ahmad Ispahani, the first chairman of PIA) that can accommodate two Boeing 747s and one narrow body airliner (e.g. Boeing 737) at one time. On 15 February 2006, the first major overhaul of a Boeing 777-200ER aircraft (known as “C” check) was done at Ispahani Hangar. Most of the PIA aircraft are checked and regulated at the aircraft hangars in Karachi. The PIA maintenance also check other airline aircraft in Karachi such as Philippine Airlines, Turkish Airlines and Air Universal. The head office of the Civil Aviation Authority of Pakistan is located in Terminal 1. Pakistan International Airlines has its head office on the grounds of the airport (PIA Building), as well as its central mainframe (CRC Building) which also houses its frequent flyer programme, Awards +, as well as hosting SITA Bagtrak, the shared International Air Transport Association global lost luggage tracking computer network. PIA Engineering HQ, Cargo Village and Flight Kitchen are also located here. Terminals 1 and Jinnah West also have round-the-clock PIA booking offices and ticketing auto-kiosks. PIA’s courier service, Speedex, is located behind the PIA Training Centre, next to the PIA Airport Jamia Mosque (behind Head Office).
The Isphahani Hangar is PIA’s wide-body aircraft maintenance hangar at Jinnah International Airport. It has been named in honour of Mr. Mirza Ahmad Isphahani. Mirza Ahmad Isphahani was the first and longest serving chairman of Pakistan International Airlines from its inception in 1954 until 1962. The new jet hangar for wide-body and narrow-body aircraft with a supporting airframe overhaul shop was completed and commissioned in 1968. Most of the PIA aircraft are checked and regulated at the aircraft hangars in Karachi. The PIA maintenance also check other airline aircraft in Karachi such as Philippine Airlines, Yemenia and Turkish Airlines.
Jinnah Airport has one main terminal, divided into two concourses:
- The Jinnah East Satellite Concourse, used for international flights
- The Jinnah West Satellite Concourse, used for domestic flights
Runways and aprons
The airport has two runways measuring 3,200m and 3,400m in length respectively. Runways, 25R/07L and 25L/07R each have a width of 46 m (150 ft) and 45m respectively. Capable of handling up to Boeing 747-400, Airbus A350 XWB & Antonov An-225 Mriya aircraft. The runways have capacity to handle 15 flights per hour and it accommodate simultaneous landing and take off. Runway 25R and 25L is equipped with ILS CAT-I to guide landing aircraft safely under very poor weather conditions and also allowing planes to land in low visibility conditions, such as fog. The taxiway is able to handle 12 aircraft at any one moment while the parking area measures 266,000 sq metres and is able to accommodate 42 aircraft, 12 of which through air bridges linking them directly with the terminal building. In addition to this, there are remote parking bays for 30 aircraft.
Airlines and destinations[
Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta, Sialkot
Baghdad, Najaf (Begins 16 July 2021)
Pakistan International Airlines
Abu Dhabi, Bahawalpur, Beijing–Capital, Dammam, Dubai–International, Faisalabad, Gwadar, Islamabad, Jeddah, Kuala Lumpur–International, Lahore, Medina, Multan, Peshawar, Quetta, Rahim Yar Khan, Sialkot, Sukkur, Tokyo–Narita, Toronto–Pearson, Turbat,Skardu
Jeddah, Medina, Riyadh
Faisalabad, Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta
Abu Dhabi, Bagram, Bahrain
Qatar Airways Cargo
Dubai-International, Islamabad, Lahore
Colombo–Bandaranaike, Istanbul-Atatürk, Singapore
YTO Cargo Airlines Kashgar, Kunming