Multan International Airport traces its origins to the British Empire, when the Royal Air Force used the open space to fly in and out of the region during 1919. The area was used for aircraft that were able to land on gravel and grass surfaces. In 1934, Imperial Airways started to use the airfield for civil aircraft flights since Multan was considered a strategic position in the Punjab province of India. It was not until 1938 that Imperial Airways started to operate regular flights out of Multan. The flight would originate in Lahore, then fly into Multan, where it would continue its journey to Jacobabad and then Karachi.
Following the independence of Pakistan from the British, Pak Air, a new airline to the dominion, started operations from Multan Airport. Multan Flying Club was also set up at the Airport within the same year. It was not until the birth of the national flag carrier, Pakistan International Airlines in 1957, that PIA started operations from Airport using Douglas DC-3 aircraft. In 1963, due to growth of the number of flights and larger aircraft requirements, the runway, taxi-ways and aprons where carpeted using bitumen. A new control tower was constructed to meet the technological changes at that time. In 1971, as PIA had acquired Boeing aircraft, the runway was extended to 9000' by 100' to handle heavier aircraft and more passengers. The Airport terminal building was extended in 1977 which also saw the airport handle Boeing 720 aircraft. In 1980–88, the airport runway was strengthened and re-carpeted for the arrival of the Airbus A300. It was not until 1999, that PIA and private airline Aero Asia that gave airport an international status. Flights began to the Middle East such as Dubai and Kuwait.
Under construction Multan Airport new terminal (landside), photographed in 2013
As the demand for air travel began to surge, the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority decided to upgrade the facilities for the airport in 2005. Initially the runway was upgraded to handle Boeing 747 operations at a cost of Rs 720m and was completed within the same year. On 15 December 2006, Shaheen Air started four weekly flights from Karachi to Multan. The airport also reported an operating profit of Rs 1bn within that year.
It was in December 2007, that Director General CAA, Farooq Rehmatullah held a press conference that the terminal building would be expanded as well as airside facilities at a cost of Rs4.5bn. It was in April 2009 that the work started with the runway, taxi ways and apron so the airport could handle large aircraft. The ground breaking ceremony was held by the then PM Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani. Pakistan-based Engineering Consultants International Limited (ECIL) was awarded the contract to extend the runway and terminal building.
In January 2010, the Pakistan CAA decided that a brand new terminal with four jet bridges would be constructed instead of expanding the current terminal. In June 2010, PM Yousuf Raza Gilani carried out the ground breaking ceremony for the terminal building and inaugurated the first PIA Being 747Hajj flight on the 28th October 2010.
In March 2015, new terminal of Multan International Airport was formally inaugurated by PM Nawaz Sharif with former PM Yousuf Raza Gilani as well as several high-ranking officials. All operations have now shifted from the old terminal to the new one with flights increasing with more destinations and routes being opened up for the city of Multan. Keeping the international standards in view, a new air traffic control tower is constructed as well which is equipped with modern gadgets and navigation systems. A cargo complex of international standard has also been established with a capacity of 10,000 metric tonnes per year to host international cargo flights from Multan which will boost exports of fruits particularly mangoes and vegetables. There are plans that this would further increase to 30,00 metric tonnes every year.
After the transfer of all operations to new terminal, Airblue announced to start twice a week flight service for Islamabad from 3 April-2015. Airblue also announced to start twice a week service for Jeddah from 4 April-2015 & twice a week service for Sharjah from 10 April-2015. Qatar Airways announced to start 3 times a week service by A320 with 2 class seating for Doha - Multan sector from 1 August-2015 to get the facility for connections to USA & Europe. Air Arabia announced 4 weekly flights for Sharjah - Multan sector from 1 May-2015. Flydubai announced to increase its 3 times weekly service to daily flights for Multan from 26 May-2015 as they got a good load for the sector. Air Arabia also got a successful response so they announced to increase its service to daily flights for Multan from 31 May-2015. Emirates announced to start 4 times a week flight operation by Boeing 777-300 with 2 class seating to provide service for Dubai - Multan sector from 1 August-2015 which will facilitate the travelers to get connections for MENA Region, Far East, USA & Europe, this service will also provide the international cargo facility as every flight can carry up to 23 tonnes of cargo.Flydubai announced to increase its frequency to 9 flights a week from 10 July-2015, 2 additional flights will provide the service on Wednesdays & Fridays to facilitate the travelers to/from Multan. After getting a successful business on Jeddah & Sharjah routes Airblue announced to start twice a week flight service for Medina as well from 18 August-2015. Pakistan International Airlines opening more new routes from Multan so they announced to start 1 weekly flight for Abu Dhabi by A320 from 26 October-2015 & 1 weekly flight for Muscat from 14 November-2015 by using A320. Gulf Air expanding their operation in Pakistan and opening more routes so they announced 4 weekly flight by A320 for Bahrain - Multan sector from 14 December-2015 which will also provide connections for USA.
Cargo/Freight Services provided by Pakistan International Airlines, booking can be made at PIA Booking Office located at Abdali Road or Airport Cargo Office.
International Cargo/Freight Service provided by Emirates as their every flight can carry up to 23 tonnes of cargo which helps local exporters to send their cargo to any of 78 countries in the world where Emirates airline operates.
Multan International Airport is situated in the well populated area of cantonment and it is easily accessible through Airport Road by using Qasim Road or Jamil Abad Road from any part of the city. There is a drop off lane at the front of the terminal as well as a wide car parking area which can accommodate more than 400 vehicles.
On 10 July 2006 a Fokker F-27 Friendship took off from Multan International Airport. Flight PK688 suffered engine problems soon after take-off, causing the pilot to lose control. The aircraft crashed in a nearby grassy field, causing it to catch fire on impact leaving all 54 passengers and crew dead.