BANGKOK, 30 October 2015: A new airport terminal scheduled to open in June next year will help U-Tapao Airport cope with growing passenger traffic.
Speaking at Association of Thai Travel Agents monthly meeting on Thursday, the airport director, Rr Adm Wasinsan Janthawarin, said the new terminal will ready in March and officially opened 1 June, next year.
“The airport will serve both military and commercial flights under the concept of One Airport Two Missions. The new facilities will give airlines an opportunity to add new services ahead of the 2016 peak season.”
The new building, together with the existing terminal, will raise passenger capacity from 800,000 to 3 million per year. Between 2018 and 2020, capacity will increase to 5 million passengers.
The navy owned and operated airport would be responsible for air traffic control and all ground services, while Thai Airways International would provide support in other areas on request, such as inflight catering.
The airport will most likely see a growth in charters from western Europe and China.
AirAsia Group is the airport’s main customer after the Malaysia company began direct U-Tapao-Kuala Lumpur services four times weekly (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday).
“Thai AirAsia also uses U-Tapao as its fifth hub and operates flights to China and this will encourage more Chinese travellers to visit the eastern seaboard, while Kan Air resumes services from northern Thailand.”
Thai AirAsia launched services to Nanning and Nanchang in China late September and will fly to Singapore, Macau and Udon Thani from 27 November. It will use two A320s for the services.
Kan Air resumed services, last Monday, on the Chiang Mai – U-Tapao route with three weekly flights Monday, Thursday and Saturday using a 66-seat ATR 72-500 turboprop.
Currently, there are four commercial airlines operating flights to U-Tapao — Bangkok Airways, AirAsia, Thai AirAsia and Kan Air.
He added: “We are confident U-Tapao will be a strong base for commercial airlines and will be ready to assume the role of the third major airport in central Thailand in line with government policy.”
The airport is handling almost 200,000 passengers and about 400 flights annually. Most of them are charter flights from China and Russia.
U-Tapao airport will offer convenience for passengers travelling to the eastern part of Thailand as it only 140 km from Bangkok, or a two-hour drive by car, he said.
Highway no 331 will be extended to four traffic lanes,and a motorway will be constructed to link Pattaya, Map Ta Phut and U-Tapao Airport.
The new motorway will link up to the existing Motorway no 7 to facilitate road traffic between Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi and U-Tapao airports.
During the blockade of Bangkok’s airports by opposition protesters in 2008, U-Tapao was used to evacuate thousands of stranded tourists. It also had an emergency role for airlines diverted from Don Mueang airport during the 2011 floods that inundated the airport.
U-Tapao’s location on the east coast, close to Pattaya, makes it an ideal destination to take pressure off Bangkok’s busy airports.