Development plans for a new terminal and car park at Khon Kaen airport will be complete in three years' time, with the fully-renovated airport ready to open by 2021, says Department of Airports (DOA) director-general Darun Sangchai.
The airport's development plans have been valued at 2.6 billion baht, said Mr Darun. The airport's new terminal will have a total capacity of five million passengers per year, as its size will be expanded to 40,000 square metres, he said.
Khon Kaen airport's current terminal is 14,000 sq m, with handling capacity of 2.4 million passengers per year. Mr Darun said that procurement projects for the airport will be finished this year, and construction is due to begin in early 2018.
As for the airport's car park expansion, a new seven-storey building will be erected in addition to the airport's current three-storey car park. He said the new parking facilities will be able to accommodate 1,460 vehicles.
Khon Kaen airport director Atthaya Lapmak said the facility has serviced 1.5 million passengers this year, adding that the number is expected to rise to 1.8 million by year-end.
He said the airport's expansion plan has been met with requests by locals to convert it into an international facility.
"It is entirely possible, because Khon Kaen airport has already been registered with customs, which enables it to load and unload imported goods," said Mr Atthaya. "We have already been in talks with 3-4 airlines about establishing new routes by the end of this year."
Mr Atthaya said that Khon Kaen's chamber of commerce has been holding discussions with Lao Central Airlines to open two new routes between Thailand and Laos.
He said the new routes will take passengers from Khon Kaen to Luang Prabang and Vientiane, Laos.
Mr Darun said the expansion of Khon Kaen airport is part of a project to turn the entire northeastern region of Thailand into a transportation hub, in light of the government's policies to boost tourism.
He said passengers travelling through airports in the Northeast or Isan region account for 40% of all the DOA's passengers.
The DOA expansion plans for northeastern airports are projected to cost 8.1 billion baht.
Apart from the 2.6 billion for Khon Kaen airport, upgrades at Udon Thani airport have been valued at 2 billion, including construction of a third terminal and expansion of its parking facilities and runways.