U-Tapao airport, or sometimes known locally as Pattaya airport, has some big development plans for the future. The increasing popularity of Pattaya and the Eastern Seaboard has seen increasing numbers of both tourists and businessmen visit the area. The airport is actually in Rayong province but is just 30km from Pattaya and has a good road infrastructure with Pattaya City. The journey takes from airport to downtown Pattaya roughly half an hour.
U-Tapao is already popular with several airlines domestic and international. AirAsia, Bangkok Air and Kan Air have scheduled flights operating out of U-Tapao with China Southern Airlines also using the facility. Many Russian and Chinese charter flights also make use of U-Tapao at present and the intention is to encourage more European carriers to come to Pattaya.
At the beginning of 2016, U-Tapao has approximately 800,000 passengers. The expansion plan includes 49 new bays as well as two new aviation bridges. When these alterations are in place it will mean the capacity of the U-Tapao will rise to around 3 million passengers. Both tourist and business passengers are being targeted and the expectation of revenue increase is high.
The rise and development of U-Tapao will bring an influx of both tourists and businessmen to Pattaya and The Eastern Seaboard. Many large companies who are connected to the aviation industry such as GE, Chromalloy and Triumph have already made significant investments in Thailand, particularly the Eastern Seaboard. A local airport will facilitate executives travelling to and from their plants. Obviously the increase of tourists will impact the hotels, restaurants, and the general local economy of Pattaya. It will also boost the real estate market, which is beginning to wake from its recent slumber.
The main catalyst for this massive re-development of U-Tapao has been the quadrupling of passenger numbers year on year and the increased frequency of domestic and international flights, which has all stretched the airport’s existing capacity to the very limit. In essence U-Tapao can become Bangkok’s third airport, and with a population of around 15 million in and around Bangkok it could become a viable alternative to Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang. If the high speed rail link also comes to fruition then getting to the capital from a flight into U-Tapao could be a good alternative, especially compared to Don Mueang situated in northern Bangkok which is not on the MRT or BTS network. The expansion of U-Tapao will be a boon to the future expansion of Pattaya’s tourist industry and attract more international companies to invest in the Eastern Seaboard. It will be a backup service to Bangkok’s ever demanding commuters.