Bangkok airports preparing to handle 200 million passengers

Within five years, the three major airports serving the Bangkok metropolitan area will have the capacity to handle a combined 200 million passengers a year once their expansion plans are complete, helping to sustain robust growth in tourism, business, and the economy, a government minister said last week.

Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith made the optimistic forecast last week during the opening ceremony for the 22nd annual Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (Canso) Global Air Traffic Management summit. Thailand has experienced explosive growth in air traffic and arrivals during the past two decades and has been a regional aviation hub for the same period.

Two of the international airports, Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang, have already exceeded capacity. Both are now building new terminals to meet the massive influx of travelers that has made the Thai capital ‘the most visited city in the world’ according to MasterCard during two of the last five years. U-Tapao in neighboring Rayong province is in the midst of being upgraded, developed and expanded as the third international airport in the megalopolis.

U-Tapao is located in the Eastern Economic Corridor, the Kingdom’s showcase development zone for advanced industries. One of those industries is aviation and aerospace, and the government and private sector are investing in building a state-of-the-art aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul center at U-Tapao to serve global and regional airlines.

In support of that project, THAI Airways International, the Kingdom’s national carrier, signed an agreement last week to undertake maintenance and repair of Rolls-Royce Trent engines. Both Boeing and Airbus use Rolls-Royce Trent engines, and the British company has about a 40 percent share of the market in which it competes. THAI expects to service about 30 of the engines each year and has forecast it will earn over $156 million annually for the work. Over 50 of THAI’s 80-plane fleet use Rolls-Royce engines.

U-Tapao will be linked to the other two airports by high-speed rail by 2023, and is eventually expected to operate with an annual capacity of 60 million passengers. Suvarnabhumi is already serving 60 million passengers, and is expected to reach 90 million after a nearly $2 billion expansion that includes constructing a third terminal that should be complete by 2021.

That same year, Don Muang is slated to open a third terminal that will increase its annual capacity to 70 million passengers.