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Phuket Airport expansion work begins this month @ 2012-09-02

Work will begin this month on the expansion of the Phuket International Airport, almost doubling its passenger capacity from the current official figure of 6.5 million a year to 12.5 million, the Deputy Director of Airports of Thailand (AoT), Wing Commander Prathip Vijitthor, announced on Friday evening (August 31).

A new international passenger terminal is to be built, capable of handling 5 million arrivals and departures a year, while the current terminal building will be for domestic travel only, and will be modified to handle 7.5 million passenger movements.

The number of aircraft stands will increase from 15 to 25, with the number of airbridges being increased to 12 from the current seven.

The work, costing B5.79 building, will take 31 months to complete – until around April 2015.

Phase 1 will consist of building the new international terminal, which will take about a year. Once that is in use, modifications to the old terminal will begin.

Although the capacity of the existing airport is 6.5 million passengers, last year 8.4 million went in or out through the existing terminal.

W/Cdr Prathip added that the plans have been drawn to ensure that passengers and construction will be kept apart during modification of the current terminal. But inevitably facilities will be cramped while work goes on. “If it is not comfortable, all I can do in this case is to offer my regrets,” he added.

It will get worse before it gets better. W/Cdr Prathip said he expects this year to see an 11 per cent increase in passenger flows, for a total of 9.3 million.

If each year sees a similar growth, the revamped airport will reach capacity at about the same time as the modifications are completed, leading one local pundit to remark that it will be “dead on arrival”.

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In addition to expansion of the terminal, the work will include expanding the length of taxiway and enlarging the car park from 500 to 1,500 parking spaces.

No mention was made at the briefing of Immigration Police plans to handle the rapidly increasing number of passengers – currently one of the major bottlenecks in the airport.

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