U-Tapao airport is to become a commercial airport in mid-2016. Under the cooperation between the Ministry of Transport and the Navy, the airport is expected to have an annual turnover of 3 million passengers by 2017.
The Minister of Transportation has signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Navy Commander to jointly develop the area, make commercial plans, improve the infrastructure, and prepare the budgets to enable the transition. The commercial airport will be managed by the Navy under the concept of “one airport, two missions”–the first mission being security; the second, provision of commercial services to relieve congestion at Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang Airports, which have been experiencing rapid passenger increases.
The two parties have set up 3 committees to coordinate cooperation in developing the airport infrastructure, business plans, and public relations.
The Transport Minister said publicity would be expedited for the use of the airport by both domestic and international airlines while transportation systems would be improved to enhance road and rail connections to the airport. On the service side, he said preparation was under way to liaise with Thai Airways International for personnel support in case the Navy cannot meet the requirements.
According to the Navy Commander, the Navy has made an initial investment of over 200 million baht in the construction of a new passenger terminal, which will be opened on June 1, 2016, and has set an annual target of 3 million passengers by 2017, compared with the current annual average of 200,000. Meanwhile, a number of commercial airlines have shown interest in operating flights to and from U-Tapao because of its strategic location for touring passengers and the expectation that the extension of their services will increase their per-flight numbers of passengers.
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