U Tapao International Airport is optimistic to become a central gateway for ASEAN thanks to a new commercial strategy implemented by the Thai Navy, owner of the air infrastructure. According to Thai Navy Admiral Wasinsap Chantawarin, Director of U-Tapao, the current Thai government stands now behind Pattaya airport development, which is perceived as an alternative gateway for Bangkok Metropolitan area.
The new commercial dynamic carries a first result. Since yesterday, AirAsia Bhd launched four weekly flights from Kuala Lumpur to U Tapao airport. The first AirAsia link to Pattaya will be followed from October by the launching of a new base by Thai AirAsia. “We will offer up to six daily frequencies with two aircraft Airbus A320, first to China and to some domestic destinations. China represents certainly the most promising air market to U Tapao”, explained Santisuk Klongchaiya, Director of Commercial for Thai AirAsia.
The future destinations are due to be unveiled in the weeks to come. “We could also eventually fly to Singapore as we believe that this market offers also potential to growth to and from U Tapao-Pattaya”.
According to Admiral Wasinsap Chantawarin, AirAsia group’s activity will soon make up to 40% of the total passengers output of the airport. AirAsia estimates that it could generate 100,000 passengers until the end of the year and contribute to rise passengers traffic from 160,000 in 2014 to 600,000 passengers a year. For 2015, Pattaya total air passengers should reach a passengers output of 240,000.
Meanwhile, the airport is now speeding the development of a new terminal as the current facility will soon reach saturation due to the presence of AirAsia’s new base. “We can accommodate 400 passengers per hour, a sufficient capacity for now. But we can also put into service additional screening machines or immigration counters if we see long waiting lines for immigration and security”, adds Admiral Wasinsap Chantawarin.
The first phase of the new terminal will open to the public in June 2016 with an initial capacity for three million passengers. By 2018/2019, the airport will have its capacity expanded to 5 million passengers per year.
Turning U Tapao-Pattaya International Airport into a central gateway for ASEAN is a very ambitious target. A major problem to achieve this status is the land accessibility. Roads to the airport are small and crowded and they are very little alternative to come to the airport than using a car.
The airport director indicates to talk now with local authorities for a bus link to Pattaya. The Admiral indicates that the highway will be enlarged to offer four lanes while a high speed train should come in the future. Except that only the government will be able to prioritize these heavy infrastructure. And nothing has so far been confirmed until today…