Mae Sot airport will better serve as Thailand’s gateway to Myanmar when a 1.5-billion-baht makeover is completed in 2018.
The ongoing works will cater to a surge in air traffic demand spurred by the planned creation of a special economic zone for the northwestern border city and the upcoming regional integration under the auspices of the Asean Economic Community.
The facelift for the storied airport — used by the Imperial Japanese Air Force to attack Allies forces in the former Burma during World War II — is meant to raise its capacity to handle larger aircraft and increased passenger throughput, according to airport director Ubonwan Wutti.
Mae Sot will then be capable of serving three Boeing 737 single-aisle jets at a time and handling some 600 passengers per hour.
That will be a significant improvement over the current capacity of two ATR-72 turboprops and up to 170 passengers per hour.
At the centre of the development is the construction of a modern passenger terminal, an extension of the runway and taxiway, and a larger apron.
The runway, owned and operated by the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA), will be lengthened by 600 metres to 2,100 metres and its width increased to 45 metres from 30.
The taxiway upgrade will put in place two 23×200-metre taxiways, an improvement on the 15×150-metre single taxiway now in use.
The airport’s apron will be expanded to 85×180 metres, compared with 60×180 metres at present, thus allowing the parking of three Boeing 737s at a given time.
A new passenger terminal with usable floor space of 12,000 square metres will be built to replace the existing facility spanning 1,000 sq m.
The DCA is acquiring 303 rai of additional land adjacent to the airport to aid the expansion, with total acreage to be raised to 1,900 rai.
Situated just three kilometres from the Thai-Myanmar border, the airport is attracting new airlines that anticipate increased traffic potential stemming from Mae Sot’s emerging economic importance in the region.
The airport received a boost in June when commuter airline Kan Air began offering scheduled flights to Bangkok, joining budget airline Nok Air, previously the sole operator to Mae Sot with a connection in Bangkok.
Both airlines now offer three scheduled flights a day, using ATR-72 and Bombardier Q400 turboprops.
To enhance the airport’s status as the gateway to Myanmar, Nok Air and Myanmar’s KBZ plan to launch regular flights from Mae Sot to Yangon starting this October.
The airport expects to increase passenger throughput this year to over 120,000, up from 100,480 last year.
Passenger traffic through the airport is forecast to grow by 10% annually over the next several years, Mrs Ubonwan said.