Thailand will start building an $8.8bn “aviation city” in eastern Rayong province this year, a government spokesperson said.
Tipanan Sirichana said the project would create 15,600 jobs in the first five years and drive growth in Thailand’s aviation industry.
The plan is to expand U-Tapao airport south of Pattaya. The 1,040ha scheme was approved in 2020 but covid stalled progress.
Bangkok metro operator BTS Group will oversee the expansion of the airport itself, adding a third terminal and other facilities.
Then a free trade zone will be built, called “Eastern Aviation City”.
Italian architect One Works devised a masterplan for the project for Indian conglomerate GMR Group, Thai AirAsia and other stakeholders.
The scheme is part of Thailand’s plan to boost growth on a coastal strip between Bangkok and Pattaya, known as the Eastern Economic Corridor.
As well as the U-Tapao plan, there will be schemes to expand international airports at Don Muang and Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi, with all three linked by a $7.2bn high-speed railway.
U-Tapao was completed in 1966 by the US air force, which used it to base B-52 bombers during the Vietnam War. After the upgrade it is expected to have a passenger capacity of 60 million, putting it in the first tier of international airports.