BTS Group looks to revive dormant U-Tapao airport project as it undertakes study tour to Hong Kong

Keeree Kanjanapas, the chairman of BTS Group Holding Plc (BTS) and the executive Chairman of U-Tapao International Aviation, led a group of people to visit Hong Kong to study the way things are done in the city as the delayed U-Tapao airport starts to breathe life after nearly 3-years of being in a coma.

The move by Keeree came after the Cabinet in early November approved the plans to expand the airport with 17.77 billion Baht in funding that would see a 3.5-kilometer runway being opened as early as 2024.

The redevelopment of U-Tapao is part of the government’s move to keep its pet project Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) moving, although little progress has been made in the nearly 5 years of the launch of the project.

The expansion of U-Tapao airport is in the grander scheme of things to help spur the tourism industry in Thailand, which includes the expansion of Suvarnabhumi Airport, and also Don Muang Airport.

Suvarnabhumi Airport is already nearly opening satellite terminal 1, which could accommodate up to 28 more aircraft parking bays and the passenger terminal to accommodate more passengers with the nearly 400,000 square meters of expansion expected to be completed by June 2025.

This expansion will help increase the passenger handling capacity to 120 million from the current 45 million.

Don Muang, the 2nd international airport, is also witnessing an expansion and 12 parking bays for aircraft are being added while the passenger terminal is also being expanded by up to 155,000 square meters which would help increase the passenger capacity of Don Muang by as much as 18 million passengers from the current capacity of 30 million passengers.

The expansion of U-Tapao airport would help increase the passenger capacity to 5 million passengers per year from the current 1.5 million.

The government of 2014 coup leader Prayut Chan-o-cha signed a deal with the consortium lead by BTS to expand the age-old U-Tapao airport in June 2020 but the project has seen delays which were blamed on the Covid-19 pandemic.

The consortium for U-Tapao, BBS Joint Venture, comprises of Bangkok Airways Plc, BTS and Sino-Thai Engineering and Construction Plc (STEC), which will hold stakes of 45%, 35% and 20%, respectively.

Keeree’s move to take the people involved in the U-Tapao airport to Hong Kong is seen as yet another step towards the possibility that the project is out of the coma.

Keeree and members of the consortium visited and listened to the development plan of Hong Kong International Airport, including warehouse space and other important service areas such as the Integrated Airport Center (IAC) and Sky Bridge, with executives from Hong Kong International Airport.

Hong Kong was among the region’s busiest airports pre-pandemic when in 2019, before the outbreak of COVID-19, there were 71.5 million passengers, with 4.8 million tons of air freight, and the airport had handled up to 419,795 flights.

The members of the consortium visited various areas of the Hong Kong airport to learn more about how to handle the passengers and cargo.

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