Multan has earned the status of ‘The City of Saints’ or ‘Madina tul Aulya’ as many saints spent years of their lives preaching Sufism in this city. Multan is the fifth largest city of Pakistan and popular for its prime location in the province of Punjab. Surrounded by Jhang, Khanewal, Muzaffargarh, Vehari and Lodhran, Multan is considered as the cultural hub. The ancient city has managed to preserve the culture especially in the form of pottery, ceramics, carpets and decorative handicrafts.
Popular saints of Multan include names such as Bahauddin Zakariya, Shamsuddin Sabzwari Multani, Shah Gardez, Musa Pak Shaheed and Hafiz Muhammad Jamal Multani. Multan Fort is one of the major attraction for tourists and those seeking repose. The geographical location of Multan is of great significance as three main rivers (Sultlej, Chenab and Ravi) bound the city.
The weather of Multan is quite hot and dry in summers and modestly cold in winters. In order to cater the demands of the population of Multan and surrounding cities, a small airport has been established.
History of Multan Airport
The history of Multan airport has its origin to the British Empire when they used the open grassy surface or as they put it ‘Kacha Maidan’ away from residential areas in the year 1919 to fly in and out of the sub continent. The first airline the British introduced was Royal Air Force which continued its operations till 1934. In the year 1934, Imperial Airways noticed the attractive strategic location of Multan and decided to use the airfield for civil aircraft flights. However, in the year 1938, Imperial Airways commenced regular flight operations to and from Multan. The aircraft routes began from Lahore, then fly into Multan, from where it would touch Jacobabad and finally end the journey in the city of Karachi.
Development of Multan Airport After Independence
After the independence in 1947, a new airline under the name Pak Air started its operations at Multan airport. The Multan Flying Club was later instituted on the airport in the year 1956. It was in the year 1957 that official flag carrier Pakistan International Airline came into existence and started its operation in Multan in the same year. The aircraft used by PIA in those days was the popular Douglas DC-3. Gradually, the number of flights to and from Multan began to grow therefore, in the year 1963; the airport was improved by carpeting the aprons, runways and taxiways with bitumen.
The control tower was also built in order to meet the latest technological demands. In the year 1971, the airport area was further extended so as to facilitate landing of heavier Boeing aircrafts. Since then, improvements on runaway became a constant activity. In the year 1999, a private airline Aero Asia began its operations in Multan due to which the airport earned the status of International airport. International airlines of Kuwait and Dubai then began operations at the Multan International Airport.
Developments at the Multan International Airport
Over the years, the demand of passengers to travel by air has been surging. Resultantly, the Civil Aviation Authority has taken step to upgrade airport facilities to encourage travelling as well as entice more airlines to begin operations at Multan Airport.
- In 2005-2006, the Civil Aviation Authority reported a profit of Rs 1 billion following the up gradation of runway and commencement of flights by Shaheen Air International at Multan International Airport.
- Later in the year 2007, it was decided to expand the runways and apron so as to make the handling of larger aircrafts easy. The extension of terminal building and upgradation of other facilities was also enlisted on the agenda. For this purpose, a budget allocation of Rs. 4.5 billion was made in a ceremony held by the then Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani.
- As a result of this expansion, hajj flights of PIA started from Multan in 2011 on weekly basis. Later in the same year, FlyDubai announced the beginning of its flights from and to Multan. Gradually Bhoja Air, Shaheen International, Air Indus, Airblue also increased the number of flights for Multan. Qatar Airways also began their weekly flights to and from Multan which made the travelling for people between Middle East and Multan convenient.
- In March 2015, the new terminal building and runway was inaugurated by the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and former Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani and various political and social figures.
- Currently, the operations of Multan International Airport have been shifted from old terminal building to the new one. The number of flights and airlines has also increased. Keeping the international standards in view, the control tower has been re constructed and equipped with modern gadgets and navigation systems. A new cargo complex has been also established with the purpose of encouraging the exports of handicrafts and mangoes and other fruits/veggies from Multan.
Important Structures of Multan International Airport
There are two lounges at the Multan International Airport for domestic and international passengers where the passengers can avail Wi-Fi facility and enjoy themselves at duty free shops and restaurants. The waiting seats are comfortable and up to the international standards.
Runway and Apron
The newly constructed runway at the Multan International Airport has a length of 10500 ft and width of 150ft whereas the apron is 235 meters long and 144 meters wide. These measurements are up to the international standards and can easily handle large domestic and international aircrafts. There is proper airfield lighting system at the Multan International Airport which makes the taking off and landing for bigger aircrafts convenient.
Facilities at Multan International Airport
Previously the parking area was small where no more than a hundred cars could be parked. Now the new parking lot has been divided into lanes where three to four times more vehicles could be parked.
Like other International Airports in Pakistan, trolleys are readily available for passengers with porters (optional) at the Multan International Airport whereas previously passengers had to accommodate with the old fashioned and fewer trolleys available.
Instead of a small praying place, a proper mosque has been established at the premises for the use of CAA employees. Passengers can offer prayers in specially allocated praying areas in the lounge.
Fast food chains including Burger King, Pizza Hut, Subway and KFC will be soon having their chains running at the Multan International Airport. This will help bring the image of Multan International Airport in line with the international standards.
Rent a Car and Cab Facilities
Passengers can avail the rent a car and metro cab facility at the Multan International Airport at highly affordable charges.
Tourists arriving at the Multan International Airport can get their room booking done right at the counters of various hotels including Ramada and other guest houses and small hotels.
Other facilities include 24/7 ATM of various banks, airline booking offices (Shaheen, Airblue, PIA, Air Indus, FlyDubai, Air Arabia), medical center, immigration counters, wheelchair facility for old and handicapped passengers, fire fighting and rescue operation services, flower shop, foreign currency exchange counters etc.
The developments at the Multan International Airport are still in progress and in the coming years, we will see the airport attracting more passengers and new airlines. This will not only strengthen the image of the city, attract local and foreign tourists, create business/job opportunities but also yield more revenues for Civil Aviation Authority.