U-Tapao airport plan set for takeoff
The Transport Ministry will propose a plan to upgrade U-Tapao International Airport as a regional hub for commercial airlines in the hope of luring more than 3 million passengers per year.
Transport deputy permanent secretary Woradej Harnprasert said the Department of Civil Aviation and Royal Thai Navy Air Division backed the plan and would submit it to Transport Minister ACM Prajin Jantong.
Located southeast of Bangkok, near Sattahip on the Gulf of Thailand, U-Tapao International Airport is a joint-civil-military public airport.
Currently, in addition to serving as the U-Tapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield, home of the Royal Thai Navy First Air Wing, the airport also is a hub for Bangkok Airways, which operates domestic flights between Samui and Pattaya. Charter flights also operate out of the airport.
Mr Woradej said there is room to make it even more active.
A new passenger terminal building is under construction and will accommodate more passengers — up from the current 100,000 to 3 million by next year, Mr Woradej said.
Three passenger boarding bridges and a 3,500 metre runway are also part of the construction project, he said.
Mr Woradej said the airport's infrastructure systems and transport systems must be upgraded to accommodate an influx of travellers.
Roads connecting to the airport would be widened to four lanes, while a new electric rail route connecting U-Tapao airport to Suvarnabhumi airport and Don Mueang International Airport would have to be developed.
Mr Woradej said the ministry will draw up a plan to divide the airport into military and commercial zones and hold talks with Royal Thai Navy Air Division authorities about the design.
U-Tapao airport director, Rear Admiral Wasinsan Janthawarin, said the airport brings in revenue by charging landing fees, aviation parking fees and passenger facility fees.
The number of flights is growing, RAdm Wasinsan said.
He said the upgrade plan would help turn the airport into one of the country's busiest. It was likely to attract both airline operators and foreign tourists.
Several airline operators have expressed an interest in operating services at the airport, according to RAdm Wasinsan.