A joint civil–military public airport, U-Tapao International Airport is underway the development to become an aerotropolis, serving as regional aviation hub in Southeast Asia region.
U-Tapao International Airport is located in the Pla subdistrict of the Baan Chang district in the province of Rayong. The airport occupies an area of land approximately 1,040 hectares (6,500 rai, 2,570 acres) and spans from the Baan Chang to Sattahip districts in Rayong. Currently, U-Tapao International Airport has one runway of a standard length of 3,500 meters and width of 60 meters with 52 bays which handle maximum capacity up to 80,000-100,000 flights per year, covering both civil and military operations. The airport has only one passenger terminal which can support 700,000 domestic and international passengers per year. The airport has undergone a terminal expansion to increase capacity to 3 million passengers a year and 5 million by 2020 and the construction of the second runway of U-Tapao International Airport is estimated completion by 2021, enabling the airport to handle up to 250,000 flight annually. Now, there are airlines offering flights from 26 cities to U-Tapao International Airport, mainly in Asia. Qatar Airways introduced services last year that cuts the travel time for European tourists who can reach U-Tapao and the resorts of the eastern seaboard on a one-stop flight through Doha.
According to Mr. Kanit Sangsubhan, Secretary General Eastern Economic Corridor Office of Thailand, the Development of U-Tapao International Airport is one of the mega-infrastructure development projects under the Eastern Economic Corridor Development Project. The Airport is designed to become the third main international Airport, serving as EEC Aerotropolis and SEA regional aviation hub to facilitate all anticipated economic activities in EEC. In addition, the airport will serve as multimodal airport city, linking another two main international airports, Don Muang International Airport and Suvarnabhumi International Airport. According to C9 Hotelworks’ latest research showed that aircraft movements surged by 47% year-on-year growth, last year, with much of the international increase from Mainland China. With the projection of over 240 million overseas visitors would visit Thailand annually by 2022, at 9.5 per cent yearly increase, the U-Tapao International Airport will be a key facility in helping ease congestion on both Bangkok airports.
The project is planned to develop the twenty-kilometre area surrounding U-Tapao International Airport. The airport area includes terminal 3 and commercial gateway, the second phase of air cargo facilities, the second phase of maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facilities, the second phase of aviation training centre and free trade zone. An inner aerotropolis, extending 10 kilometres out from U-Tapao Airport, the area will be divided in zone to develop the aerotropolis city infrastructure. The outer aerotropolis covers the area of three provinces, Chon Buri, Chachoengsao and Rayong, focusing on an establishment of transportation facilities to support growth of logistics, hospitality and tourism industries, including an expansion of industrial estate zone. The completion of the construction of EEC Aerotropolis is by 2023, total estimated investment budget is more than Bt200 billion. It is expected that the MRO facilities will be completed for operation by 2022, the contract will be signed in July 2018.