Slated for an opening in 2016 then in 2017, the new U Tapao air terminal does not seem to open any time soon, while passengers continue to soar and are accommodated in the old terminal. The current passengers terminal has only a capacity to treat half a million passengers annually.
However, U-Tapao airport reached in 2016 over 710,000 passengers and last year passed for the first time a million passengers. According to U-Tapao Airport’s statistics, the airport welcomed last year 1.14 million passengers, the largest number of travellers being from China followed by Russia and Malaysia.
Low cost carriers represented the largest market segment cumulating a total passengers’ number of 645,000 followed by charter flights with over 374,000 passengers. The AirAsia group is the main low cost carrier with flights to 10 domestic and international destinations. other regular carriers are Hainan Airlines and Bangkok Airways. Last November, Shenzhen airlines launched direct services to Shenzhen.
Charters are booming to both Chian and Russia, particularly the launch of charter regular flights by both Nok Air and Thai Lion Air. Nok Air flies from U-Tapao Pattaya to Baotou, Changsha, Haikou, Linyi, Nanchang, Yichang and Yinchuan while Thai Lion Air operates to Changsha.
The new passenger terminal was launched back to 2014 and was due to go into operation by 2015 and then 2016. Then authorities had to again push back the opening to August 2017, then again to the end of last year. According to a report in the Bangkok Post, the delay is due to a recent audit by the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand which found about 40 problems. That included problems with passengers’ aerobridges, problems with luggage conveyors and also insufficient toilets’ facilities.
This year is likely to see the opening of the new terminal but no date has been given for the launch. This would be a necessity especially as Qatar Airways is due to start on January 28 four weekly services in a Boeing 787.