Don Mueang gets new terminal

Don Mueang gets new terminal

Foreign passenger surge spurs AoT move

The Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT) has decided to demolish Don Mueang International Airport's old terminal and build a new one to accommodate soaring international passenger numbers.

The board approved the demolition plan, AoT general manager Suthirawat Suwanawat said after a meeting Wednesday.

The proposed new terminal is part of a 34-billion-baht megaproject to expand Don Mueang from 2020 to 2025, to keep up with the expected increase in passengers at the airport.

The old terminal, set to be called Terminal 3 once construction is complete, will be in addition to Don Mueang's current Terminals 1 and 2 which serve international and domestic passengers respectively.

"The original plan for the old terminal was to renovate it, but the building which is two floors high, is not suitable to turn into an international terminal," Wg Cdr Suthirawat said. "Such a building would have to have at least three to four floors to accommodate extra functions that international operations have."

According to AoT data, the number of international passengers rose by 20.8% last year compared to only a 2.6% increase in domestic passengers.

Designing Terminal 3 will take 10 months to complete and building it a further two years. Scheduled to open in 2021, the terminal will be able to service 40 million passengers a year, Wg Cdr Suthirawat said.

The old building is located between the airport's seven-storey vehicle parking building and the airport bridge, the entrance for which is located by the Don Mueang fuel depot on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road.

It was decommissioned in 2006 following the closure of Don Mueang airport when Suvarnabhumi airport was launched in Samut Prakan. Don Mueang was reopened in 2012 due to a change of policy by the then government which wanted it to serve booming low-cost airlines. However, the old building has remained unused to date.

Part of the new terminal will also link to the SRT Red Line network, currently under construction, and the planned high-speed railway set to connect Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi and U-tapao airports in Rayong, said Wg Cdr Suthirawat.

These adjustments to the original Don Mueang development plan, including both railway networks, will cost less than one billion baht, he said.

In addition to the planned new terminal, AoT has been planning to construct a new building beside Terminal 1's parking lot to be used for group check-ins, citing the yearly increase in group tours arriving in the country.

"One of the main reasons for passenger congestion at Don Mueang is group check-ins, which account for around 30-40% of the total number of check-ins each day," Wg Cdr Suthirawat said.

According to him, the planned building will be three storeys high, complete with a hallway and resting area for group tours, and will be able to service around 3,000 passengers an hour.

The group check-in building will cost around 200 million baht.

AoT reports state that other plans include constructing two new road lanes inside the airport, parallel to the current elevated roads inside Don Mueang, to ease traffic congestion.

According to the Immigration Bureau, more than 234,600 passengers used Don Mueang during Songkran this year from April 12-16. The majority were foreign tourists, with only around 79,000.

Bureau spokesman Cherngron Rimpadee earlier said this was a 12% rise from last year's figures at the airport. He said Don Mueang's services providing terminals for low-cost airlines and chartered flights have made it a popular service point for group tours, the majority of whom are Chinese.

Wg Cdr Suthirawat also said the AoT board also gave the nod to development plans for Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai airports given that more tourists are also visiting these provinces every year.

In a similar development, locals in Uttaradit have been celebrating after a private company expressed interest in investing to reopen the province's airport.

The airport, which was located in Uttaradit's Pha Chuk sub-district in Muang district, was originally used for airfreight, and later operated one flight a day to Don Mueang. However, it closed down in 2010, and the land it was situated on was later used as part of Maejo University.

Pha Chuk mayor Somchai Munkemthong said members of all 14 villages surrounding the 1,085 rai of land where the old airport was located have voted to ask the government to turn the area into treasury land so the private sector can rent and utilise it to build the new airport.

"Following this agreement among residents, a request is going to be submitted to provincial authorities for evaluation," Mr Somchai said.

"The reconstruction of the airport in the area will provide more convenience to locals and those looking to travel [to Uttaradit], and will lead to developments in investments and tourism," he added.

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