Suvarnabhumi expanding capacity to 90 million passengers

airport2Airports of Thailand announced last week that it is preparing to call bids next year in order to expand Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport to an annual capacity of 90 million passengers a year, double the number it was designed to handle when it opened 10 years ago, as tourism and business travel to and from the Kingdom continues to soar beyond expectations.

Under the new expansion plan, the government will spend roughly $1 billion to construct a new terminal in addition to the single terminal that has been serving passengers since 2006. In addition, nearly $700 million will be spent constructing a new runway to handle the increasing air traffic, which has been forecast to continue to grow consistently over the next decade.

The new construction would constitute the third phase of Suvarnabhumi’s expansion and would go forward once the environmental impact assessment and environmental health impact assessments are complete, said Nitinai Sirismatthakarn, president of Airports of Thailand (AoT). The current second phase will increase passenger capacity to 60 million a year.

In 2015, Suvarnabhumi handled 52.9 million passengers, up by nearly 14 percent from the previous year and well over its capacity of 45 million a year. International passengers passing through Suvarnabhumi grew 15.9 percent to 44.2 million, while domestic volume rose by 4.8 percent to 8.68 million. Aircraft movements showed a 9.5 percent increase to 317,066, consisting of 247,584 international (up 11 percent) and 69,482 domestic (up 4.4 percent) aircraft movements.

This growth occurred despite the government having moved most budget airlines back to Don Muang, Bangkok’s original international airport, which was shuttered when Suvarnabhumi opened, but reopened when it became apparent that passenger traffic was growing faster than expected. Budget airlines account for some of the highest growth rates in the airline industry in Asia.

In addition, the government is planning on renovating and upgrading U-Tapao airport in neighboring Chonburi province, which handles charter and military flights, into yet another international airport option in the Greater Bangkok area and one that will serve the resort city of Pattaya and much of the southern peninsula. U-Tapao was built with help from the United States and served as an airbase for American during the Vietnam War.

Thai Airways, the national carrier, is also planning on building a major state-of-the-art aircraft service center in the same area. It will serve all international and domestic airlines in need of maintenance and repairs, and further establish Thailand as the regional air hub for Southeast Asia.