Six airports set for major upgrades

The Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) will spend 3.2 billion baht upgrading six airports in preparation for the launch of the Asean Economic Community in 2015.

The upgrades are aimed at improving Asean travel links, DCA director-general Voradej Harnprasert said yesterday.

Mae Sot airport in Tak province and Betong airport in Yala will get the bulk of the funding with 1 billion baht each, he said. The money will go towards extending the runway at Mae Sot airport, while a new terminal will be built at Betong to better serve passengers en route to Malaysia, Mr Voradej said.

Ubon Ratchathani airport will be given 300 million baht to extend its aircraft parking area and to renovate its passenger terminal, he added.

About 275 million baht will also be set aside for Udon Thani airport to upgrade its passenger terminal.

Narathiwat airport meanwhile will get 400 million baht to construct a building to accommodate Muslims travelling to Saudi Arabia to attend the haj. About 300 million baht will be allocated to extend the taxi-way for an aircraft maintenance centre at Nakhon Ratchasima airport.

Transport Minister Chadchat Sittipunt said Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra had ordered the ministry to upgrade all 28 airports under DCA supervision to improve regional air transport links.

Work on the six airports would begin soon, he said, while the other 22 would upgraded later. The Mae Sot upgrade will be given priority as it is the hub for business travel between Thailand and Myanmar, Mr Chadchat said, adding that Surin Air Force base was also being considered for commercial purposes.

The minister is also proposing that aviation management experts, such as Thai Airways International or Airports of Thailand, be called in to run regional airports instead of the DCA.

Mr Chadchat said an amendment was also being sought to the Aviation Act to increase the maximum allowable share of foreign investment in aviation businesses from 49% to 70%. This would liberalise the aviation industry and boost foreign investment in Thailand, he said.

About the author

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Writer: Amornrat Mahitthirook
Position: Reporter