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.
History of Benazir Bhutto International Airport
After gaining independence in 1947, a portion of Chaklala Airbase was used for commercial air travel to and from the cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad, and other surrounding areas. With time, the airbase was renovated, and it evolved to accommodate the growing numbers of domestic and international travellers. It was later renamed to Benazir Bhutto International Airport.
However, the space reserved for the airport proved to be insufficient for further expansions. Thus, the founding stone of IIA was laid in 2007. However, the project was completed in a little over 10 years.
Features of Islamabad International Airport
Being the largest airport in the country, IIA has the capacity to serve around 15 million travellers a year. There is also room for further expansions that will allow this number to increase to 25 million. 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.
You can also check out our guides to the Jinnah International Airport, Karachi, Allama Iqbal International Airport, Lahore, and Sialkot International Airport, if you plan on flying from Pakistan to your destination.
*[Cover Image Credits: Official Website of Islamabad International Airport]