RAWALPINDI - Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif inaugurated the newly upgraded facilities and fast track services here at Benazir Bhutto Islamabad International Airport on Monday.

The prime minister was flanked by Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman, Advisor to PM on Aviation Shujaat Azeem and Director General Civil Aviation Authority Air Marshal (Retd) Mohammad Yousuf.

These facilities include new building for international departure and fast track check-in counters, business class fast track, 35 percent enhanced car parking area and addition of 32 new public toilets. The new facilities have been completed with the cost of Rs 460 million. The airport now has a new Taxiway - Delta, to allow the aircraft exit the runway after landing, vacating it for other aircraft to land or take-off.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif went around the renovated areas of the airport, designed to provide maximum facilities to the passengers till the completion of the new Islamabad International Airport at Fateh Jang.

The Prime Minister who arrived at the airport from Lahore was welcomed at the new taxiway with a rare water cannon salute. The salute is presented to special flights. Two fire tenders of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) sprayed aerial water shots that create an arch of water, causing a rainbow.

Prime Minister Sharif opted to travel in a CAA coach to the airport terminal along with the media and security personnel and was briefed along the way by his Advisor on Civil Aviation Shujaat Azeem.

The Prime Minister visited the upgraded Rawal Lounge, domestic and international departure lounges, the Fast Track building and other facilities at the airport.

Shujaat Azeem informed the Prime Minister that the airport now has improved parking for 700 vehicles, besides a dedicated 375 car parking for the staff, wheel-chair access to the entire building, dedicated toilets for the disabled, free Wi-Fi access, and declaring the entire airport a no-smoking zone. The remarkable thing was that not even a single tree inside the parking area was cut to maintain the natural beauty.

The Prime Minister was also informed that the number of airline counters has been increased from 20 to 25, immigration from 10 to 12, besides a fast track system for quicker access to those with little luggage, women, children and elderly. The number of public toilets has been doubled and improved to meet international standards, while waiting lounge now also has international food chains.

Prime Minister Sharif after going through different renovated sections of the airport expressed his satisfaction over the quality of work. He directed that similar facilities be provided at other airports so as to ease the travellers’ woes.

The Prime Minister directed to increase the pace of work, when informed that renovation of other airports was also progressing.

Shujaat Azeem said Benazir Bhutto International Airport was declared a pilot project to launch a drive of up-gradation of facilities offered by the Civil Aviation Authority. He said services of leading national architects were hired for improvement of facilities, and to ensure quick clearance of passengers during peak rush hours. He said different passenger traffic flow patterns and the difficulties faced by passengers had been kept in view while carrying out the project.

The Prime Minister directed the CAA to ensure cleanliness, maintenance and quality of services at the Benazir Bhutto Airport.

DG CAA Air Marshal (Retd) Mohammad Yusaf told media persons that the taxiway alone would help save around Rs 120 million in only two months owing to fuel costs alone.

He hoped that the up-gradation of the airport, under the vision of PM Mian Nawaz Sharif, would provide better facilities to the international and domestic passengers, till the completion of the new Islamabad airport.