U-Tapao airport, which serves as the gateway to Thailand’s eastern seaboard, including the popular beach resort of Pattaya, is in line for a major investment and expansion.
The Bangkok Post reports that a second runway and a new, larger passenger terminal are among the projects under consideration as part of the Thai government’s plan to expand the three airports in and around Bangkok: Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang and U-Tapao.
The newspaper cited the director of the newly-created U-Tapao Airport Authority (UAA), Worapol Tongpricha, as saying that a second runway, measuring 3,500 metres in length and running parallel to the existing one, could be built first. Following that, a new terminal capable of handling 15 million passengers per year may be developed, to cater for the rising traffic.
These plans are being revealed even before the current phase of expansion at U-Tapao is complete. The new terminal building, which will have a capacity of three million passengers per year, is currently under construction and expected to open in August 2017.
Thai duty-free giant King Power has also revealed that it is considering plans to open a retail outlet at the terminal.
Passenger numbers at U-Tapao are surging; full-year traffic at the hub jumped more than 300% to 710,000 last year, and is expected to rise almost 70% this year to 1.2m. More than 1,000 hectares of land has been set aside for the airport’s expansion.
A former military base, U-Tapao now serves several Thai and international carriers, including AirAsia, Bangkok Airways, China Southern Airlines and S7 Airlines.