What are the plans?
U-tapao was originally built by the US during the Vietnam War, and currently has one primary runway of 12,000ft in length. The airport has historically had modest terminal facilities, but these have been upgraded recently and plans for the future are far more significant.
Based on its existing set up, the airport serves around 8,000 flights per year, most of which are leisurely charters to the area’s beach destinations. The Government and in particular the Tourist Authority have made it clear they want U-tapao to become effectively Bangkok’s 3rd major International Airport.
This will involve the building of a second runway, which will be some 3.5kms in length and is due for completion by 2021. This new infrastructure will allow up to 250,000 flight movements per year as we move into the next decade. Passenger numbers in 2016 were 700,000 but this broke through 1 million in 2017, and upon completion of the second runway the goal will be for the airport to process closer to 60 million people.
All of these extra visitors will of course need better Terminal facilities, so in additional to the two current buildings a new huge Privately funded and run facility will be established to meet this growing demand. Connections from the airport to nearby Pattaya will be enhanced as will the potential for maintenance facilities around the airport. This is particularly important as it encourages more airlines to use the airport as a base/hub (noting that Thai Airways and their subsidiaries already have the inside running on this).
Why is all this important? Well Thailand is by far our most popular retirement and long stay destination (acknowledging Bali is also a favourite), so the building of another hub in the region allows Aussies more access to the great lifestyle and facilities in this part of the country. As an example, whilst many retirees don’t want to live in the heart of Bangkok, living in a city by the beach that is within an easy drive (or rail journey) to the city provides them with access to excellent healthcare, retail, entertainment and superb (cost effective) transport links. It’s a win win for everyone, and who knows maybe one day there will be direct links between Australia and U-Tapao!
It’s an exciting future, and we very much look forward to enjoying these new developments when they become available.
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