The Export Triangle of Pakistan comprising Gujrat, Sialkot and Gujranwala is internationally famous for producing and exporting Sports Goods, Gloves, Surgical instruments, Sports Wears, Cutlery, Ceramics, and Leather Garments etc. The Air cargo for the area was sent to Lahore, Islamabad & Karachi Airports via Sambrial Dry Port. It was a tough exercise indeed as it involved extra expenses and time apart from other difficulties faced by the exporters. More over, the customers from abroad were hesitant and reluctant to travel to Sialkot, Wazirabad and Gujrat due to security reasons and it has been a matter of great in-convenience for the exporters of this very region. Due to these logistic problems, full export potential of these cities was not being realized. Hence, the demand for an Airport in Gujranwala Division was voiced by the Traders, Businessmen, exporters and general public especially the Overseas Pakistanis of this area since long time.
The exporters of Sialkot had exhibited a strong will and spirit in the recent past by establishing the Sambrial Dry Port Trust on self help basis and operating it successfully. While accepting the challenging task again, they took the initiative and Sialkot Chamber of Commerce & Industry pleaded the case of Airport with the Government of Pakistan but due to financial constrains, the Govt. expressed its in-ability to this effect. The dedicated and highly motivated exporters of Sialkot equipped with strong driving force and determination ultimately succeeded in their mission. During the presentation made by SCCI on 2nd Feb. 2001, the President of Pakistan very graciously gave approval in principle for the construction of an International Airport at Sialkot on Build, Own & Operate (BOO) basis and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between Sialkot Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Ministry of Defence through Civil Aviation Authority.
The promoters from Private Sector were invited to join the mega project and a public limited company namely Sialkot International Airport Ltd. (SIAL) was formed and registered. The selected site measuring 1034 acres is located at 16 k.m. to the west of Sialkot and at a 40 minutes drive from Gujrat and Gujranwala cities. The land was acquired and work started on the Project in January 2003. Ground Breaking Ceremony was held on 18th December 2003 by Chief Minister Punjab and he approved and announced a dual Carriageway to link the International airport with Sialkot – Wazirabad Dual Carriageway.
The first green field Airport of the country has been constructed in an Investment friendly atmosphere, incorporating the best Airport facilities meeting international standards. Sufficient space has been allocated and reserved at the Airport for Airline offices, Aircraft Catering Units, Ground Handling Services, Cargo Warehouses, Restaurant & Car parking and Hotel etc. The total cost of the International Airport is about Rs.4 billion. The operation of Domestic and International Flights started from November 30, 2007. Qatar Air started its two weekly cargo flights in October, 2008. Recently, however the Government permitted foreign carriers to start their passenger flights from and to Sialkot. Resultantly, Air Arabia started its daily flight on the sector Sharjah-Sialkot-Sharjah from 11th January, 2013 whereas, Fly Dubai is operating its passenger Flights thrice a week with effect from 1st March, 2013. Emirates Air has started its Passenger Flight Operation from 5th November 2013. Gulf Air has started its operation from 17th Jan 2014. Similarly, Qatar Air, Oman Air, Etihad are also doing their spade work to start their passenger flights from Sialkot. The Collector of Custom has established a full fledged Air Freight Unit (AFU) at Sialkot Airport and bonded trucking facility from Sialkot International Airport to Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar Airports is already operational. The Government of Pakistan has very kindly approved the establishment of ASF, Custom, Immigration, MET and other support services free of cost at this Airport. At the moment, 365 Directors are the members of the SIAL Board.
Sialkot International Airport is a unique Project in Private Sector, may be first of its kind in South East Asia. The regional dynamics, which were lacking in this part of the country, has started picking up after the commissioning of the Airport. It has speeded up the transportation of Export Cargo by Air and facilitating a great number of businessmen and Overseas Pakistanis of this particular region. It is attracting world – wide clients and we foresee major strategic changes in the region which will change the mind set of the industrialists, exporters and business community and it will direct unprecedented trade and business activities in the region. The Airport has brought about a great Industrial revolution particularly in the employment of the residents of the cities forming export Tri-angle of Pakistan.