PBTA brainstorms improvements to U-Tapao airport

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Pattaya business leaders brainstormed ways to capitalize on government plans to develop U-Tapao-Rayong-Pattaya Airport into a major international hub and bring more tourists directly to the Eastern Seaboard.

Sinchai Wattanasartsathorn, president of the Pattaya Business and Tourism Association, presided over the group’s annual general meeting Oct. 26, reviewing the many projects the organization has been involved in over the past year. He said a top priority for the coming year is the redevelopment of U-Tapao.

PBTA President Sinchai Wattanasartsathorn presides over the group’s annual general meeting.

After many stalled attempts, serious work is now underway to build a new passenger terminal and facilities to bring regularly scheduled international flights to the former US air base now operated by the Royal Thai Navy.

The airport mostly handles only charter flights, but recently has gained scheduled carriers Thai AirAsia and Kan Air, in addition to long-standing flights by Bangkok Airways.

Sinchai told the meeting that the new terminal is on schedule to open early next year. If the total development project is successful, overall levels of tourism in the eastern region will rise, he said.

He noted that the addition of Thai AirAsia has been a major boost to the airport and region, now offering regular flights to two cities in China, as well as Macau and Singapore.

Moreover, domestic flights will be opened to Udon Thani, which will make traveling more convenient and increase travel into this region.

However, he noted, there remains the problem of surface links to the Rayong airport. Although Route 331 was widened to four lanes, most tourists still use Sukhumvit Road, consuming more time.

PBTA is cooperating with the Tourism Authority of Thailand to coordinate with the Department of Highways to increase the efficiency between the airport and Pattaya.