Big Plans for U-Tapao

Jeff Gill


Tapao International Airport

As we have mentioned in recent social media posts via the Retire to Asia Community Group, the Thai Government is ploughing hundreds of Billions of Baht into building infrastructure in and around the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC). This includes the linking of Bangkok’s two main airports, Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang, with U-tapao International Airport (near Pattaya) via a high speed rail line. Currently travel between the airports can be subject to lengthy delays due to the huge increase of traffic on Thailand’s main roads and tollways.

On our recent trip to the Land of Smiles, the smiles became somewhat of a grimace as we sat in a 14km queue on the main link between the capital and the seaside city of Pattaya, making the journey a 2 1/2 hour slog.

Whilst we acknowledge the train won’t be up and running for several years, the thought of a safe, reliable journey closer to 45 minutes in travel time certainly puts the smile back on our face.

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).

Bangkok Airport

Exciting Future

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. 

If you’d like to keep regularly updated on all matters South East Asia, please visit our facebook page ‘Retire to Asia Community Group’ and join us, scroll to the bottom of the page and subscribe to our news letter.

If you’d like more information or have any questions, please feel free to call 1800-961-377 or email in**@re**********.au and let the team at Retire to Asia help make your dream lifestyle a reality.

Andrew Leeson

Jeff Gill

With 25 years of travel experience to 73+ countries including SE Asia, Jeff now enjoys helping others retire there. He invites you to experience the people, culture, food and amazing landscapes of the SE Asia region for yourselves.

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