U-Tapao Airport expansion plan approved by Cabinet

PHOTO: The Cabinet approved plans to expand U-Tapao airport. (via Nation)

For tourists to Pattaya, travel may be getting a lot easier. The Cabinet has approved a plan for a massive expansion of U-Tapao Airport, the hub in Rayong province nearest to the popular tourist town. The project would grow the airport’s capability for commercial flights to land. It would expand by building a new runway and adding facilities to accommodate travellers. The new airport could serve a maximum of 60 million passengers per year.

The U-Tapao isn’t likely to break ground tomorrow, however. The decision by the Cabinet this week was merely an approval of the concept in principle without a detailed plan or timeline. Still, it is the first step to making Pattaya’s closest airport a full international hub. The airport would then rival Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Phuket International Airport, and Don Mueang International Airport also in Bangkok. They are currently the top three airports, in that order, serving the most passengers this year.

The airport expansion project was first started in October 2019. But, like so many other plans, especially in the tourism sector, has been delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The budget for turning U-Tapao into a world-class international hub airport is estimated to be about 17.77 billion baht.

The Royal Thai Navy first started the project three years ago with a 1.46 billion baht initial financial allocation. The remaining 16.31 billion baht is still in bureaucratic limbo. The Ministry of Finance searches for the remaining funding in the government’s budget or loans.

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Expanding the airport is part of Thailand’s overall plan to improve infrastructure to grow business for the Eastern Economic Corridor in the coming years. The U-Tapao plan would construct an additional runway and all the necessary taxiways to connect that landing strip to the terminal. The runway will be 3,505 metres long and is projected to open by 2024.

Pattaya News

Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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