By SUCHAT SRITAMA
Rear Admiral Worapol Tongpricha, director of U-tapao Airport, said it had received more commercial air traffic since it opened full services.
He said at least seven airlines including Hong Kong Airlines, China Southern, Okay Airways, Emirates, and local operator Pattaya Airlines planned to operate flights into U-tapao Airport.
Hong Kong Airlines plans to operate four fights per week, while China Southern expects to start operations in January. Pattaya Airlines will resume its services. The rest are working on their business plans.
Worapol said Terminal 2 was still undergoing construction at a cost of Bt800 million, but when it is completed next year it will increase annual capacity by a million passengers.
From October last year to last month, the number of passenger rose tenfold thanks to more airlines using the airport.
"We believe that U-tapao can attract more airlines and travellers as its passenger service charge of Bt400 per passenger is lower than Bt700 at Suvarnabhumi Airport. Parking and landing fees are also more than 60 per cent cheaper than at Suvarnabhumi," he said.
Several airlines are already operating scheduled flights at the airport such as Bangkok Airways, Kan Air, and Thai AirAsia. Tassapon Bijleveld, chief executive officer of Thai AirAsia, said the airline inaugurated four new routes yesterday, flying from U-tapao Airport to Chiang Mai, Udon Thani, Singapore and Macau.
The airline celebrated the occasion by giving 60 young people from Chiang Mai and Udon Thani their first flight experience, flying them to U-tapao to visit HTMS Chakri Naruebet, the Royal Thai Navy’s aircraft carrier.
AirAsia now operates eight routes from U-tapao Airport. It flies to Kuala Lumpur four times weekly, Nanning three times weekly, Nanchang four times, Singapore seven times, Macau seven times, Chiang Mai 10 times, Udon Thani seven times and Hat Yai four times, for a total of 46 flights a week.
U-tapao Airport is AirAsia’s fifth flight hub connecting the Eastern region to the rest of Thailand and international destinations, and the airline has noted a strong positive response.
"We are proud to have to started and to be a part of U-tapao Airport’s burgeoning vibrancy and ability to welcome commercial air travel. We have stationed two Airbus A320 [aircraft] at U-tapao Airport, which serve a total of eight routes," Tassapon said.
Thai AirAsia expects to serve 14.5 million passengers with a load factor of 82 per cent this year. Next year, the airline hopes to carry 16.5 million passengers with an 82-per-cent load factor.
The airline is scheduled to receive five more aircraft next year, which will help it add two new routes to India and several in the domestic market.