Second airports slated for Phuket and Chiang Mai
Thailand will be getting second airports for its two most popular destinations beyond Bangkok as Airports of Thailand announced last week it will build sister airports for Phuket and Chiang Mai to serve their burgeoning air traffic, at a cost of roughly $640 million and with construction expected to begin in 2019.
“It would help ease the congestion in both places. Especially for Chiang Mai airport, which doesn’t operate at all hours, the expansion will be of great help,” said Nitinai Sirismatthakarn, president of Airports of Thailand (AoT).
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) welcomed the announcement, with TAT Governor Yuthasak Supasorn telling reporters that the decision is an important part of efforts to support the strong growth in the number of tourist arrivals. “It’s actually pretty packed [in Chiang Mai and Phuket],” he said. “Building new airports there will help feed tourists out to the less popular destinations in the provinces.”
Thailand is in the midst of a national infrastructure upgrade to advance the country’s competitiveness, stimulate economic growth and create jobs. The news that AoT will invest in building two new airports is in addition to the $60 billion in new infrastructure the government already has on its drawing board. AoT operates the six largest airports in Thailand, and the new airfields will raise that number to eight.
The airports in Phuket and Chiang Mai have already exceeded capacity, with 16.2 million passengers passing through Phuket International Airport last year, and Chiang Mai serving 9.9 million during the same period.
The two new airports will each have an annual capacity of 10 million passengers and both are expected to be operational by 2025.
The new airports will technically be in neighboring provinces, with the one serving Phuket located near the southern tip of Phang Nga province, while the one serving Chiang Mai will be near the northern edge of Lamphun province. Both, however, will be located just a short drive from the tourist centers they are intended to serve with each being about 12 to 18 miles from the primary airports.
Phuket’s current airport is already undergoing a three-year upgrade that includes building a new international terminal and a redevelopment of the old airport into a stand-alone domestic terminal.