Mae Sot International to open by year-end

Mae Sot International to open by year-end

Govt SEZ policy to get shot in the arm

The ฿440 million Mae Sot International Airport in Tak province should be ready for domestic and foreign flights before New Year's Eve. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
The ฿440 million Mae Sot International Airport in Tak province should be ready for domestic and foreign flights before New Year's Eve. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

There are still a few finishing touches to complete but the ฿440 million airport at Mae Sot will be ready for domestic and foreign flights by New Year.

"Its construction is virtually complete. From now until December, the terminal will undergo systems testing and we will auction the commercial space inside," said DOA chief Daroon Saengchai, director-general of the DOA.

Costing about 440 million baht to build, the new terminal with 12,000 sq m space will boost the airport's capacity to accommodate visitors to 1.7 million passengers per year.

The airport serviced around 170,000 passengers last year.

The airport's current terminal is just 1,800 sq m, and can handle around 400,000 passengers per year.

The DOA expects the total number of passengers to increase to 800,000 per year by the end of 2021, when more airlines start arriving and competing.

Mae Sot had offered flights to neighbouring Yangon and Mawlamyaing in Myanmar before. But all international flights ceased operation given the lack of demand and discontinuation of the smaller airlines which operated the routes.

Mr Daroon said the DOA has been talking to international airlines about using the airport.

At present, the airport only caters to domestic flights to and from Don Mueang airport. The sole flight provider is Nok Air, which runs three to five flights a day.

"We have been holding talks with Air Asia to establish international flight routes from Mae Sot, since the runway and aircraft parking space expansions will allow for their larger planes to land," Mr Daroon said.

"Flights to and from China are a prime target. Our reports say 30% of passengers on flights [from Don Mueang to Mae Sot] on average are Chinese nationals," he said.

Mae Sot airport is a popular location for both Chinese and Burmese tourists, since it is easy to cross the Burmese border using the Mae Sot-Myawaddy Friendship Bridge.

To cope with international flights in the near future, the DOA will reinforce and expand the existing runway and taxiways at the Mae Sot airport.

That work will be completed by the end of 2020. The DOA expected the upgraded runway will be in service a year later as it needs to be tested and audited.

Under the plan, the runway will be expanded from 1,500m to 2,100m.

The runway work will be carried out to meet International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) safety requirements, Mr Daroon added.

The runway expansion would involve land expropriation, said a source at the DOA. The DOA and and related agencies are discussing land expropriation and the budget.

Meanwhile, the DOA will open bids for commercial space at the airport this month.

About 70% of commercial space would be leased to private firms and the rest given to local entrepreneurs and businesses. Local firms would be given a 50% rent discount as part of government policy.

"We have specified that each party can win contracts for a maximum of only two lots, to prevent a monopoly," said the source.

"Pricing of the products sold at the airport must also be the same prices as those seen in malls, as the contracts will not include airport-based price markups," he said.

The airport's upgrade was in response to the government's economic policy declaring Mae Sot a special economic zone.

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