B40m sought for Nan airport expansion study
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B40m sought for Nan airport expansion study

Nan airport (file photo: Rarinthorn Phetcharoen)
Nan airport (file photo: Rarinthorn Phetcharoen)

The Department of Airports (DoA) is seeking a budget of 40 million baht to finance an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) study on the expansion of Nan's airport which is predicted to handle more passengers in the future.

The DoA is planning to request from the government a budget of 40 million baht to conduct the EIA survey on the airport runway's expansion and the construction of a new terminal. 

The runway needs to be lengthened from 2,000 metres to 2,500 metres to accommodate larger aircraft, said DoA deputy director-general Jaroon Meesomboon. 

The department hopes to be granted the study fund to be tapped from next year's fiscal budget during which the design of the study will take place. After that, the EIA process will get underway.

If the EIA is approved, the airport expansion is expected to begin in 2025 with the acquisition of land needed to add 500 more metres to the existing runway.

The construction phase of the runway expansion is likely to commence in 2027 and the project is estimated to take two to three years to complete. 

Mr Jaroon said budget for the entire airport improvement project including the runway expansion will be determined after the EIA report is wrapped up. 

A longer runway is essential as Nan Nakhon Airport is currently able to handle only small planes. Once the expansion is finished, the airport will be able to receive overseas flights, especially from China, as well as from major points elsewhere in the country, apart from Bangkok, such as Phuket, using larger aircraft. 

Nan welcomed about 1 million visitors a year before the Covid-19 pandemic two years ago. The airport is equipped with only one departure gate despite a forecast of a steady increase in passenger traffic in the coming years. 

"When several flights land at close intervals to each other, the airport is congested," Mr Jaroon said. 

More tourists are visiting the upper northern province after Covid-19 containment measures were eased.  There are more visitors coming to Nan than there are local residents. Nan has a population of around 400,000.

The department was looking to buy more land for the airport's improvement.

At present, Nan Nakhon Airport is served by four commercial airlines — Thai AirAsia, Nok Air, Thai Smile and Thai Lion Air. They offer nine flights a week between them, down from 12 flights weekly pre-Covid. 

Thai Viet Jet is also applying for the right to open one direct flight a day from  Suvarnabhumi airport to Nan.  

On average, the airport handles about 1,000 passengers a day, down from 1,700-2,000 per day before the pandemic. Load factor, or how many paying seats are occupied per flight, is between 70-80% from Tuesdays to Thursdays and 90-100% from Fridays to Mondays.  

According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand, most visitors to Nan are Thais. Only 2% are foreigners.

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