Maximising their potential

In this two-part article, Marnix (Max) Groot, managing editor of the Momberger Airport Information newsletter, reports on a selection of infrastructure development projects that are either underway or planned across Asia.

While Asia has been slower to recover from COVID-19 than other regions, the future looks bright, with hundreds of airports either being built, upgraded or expanded across the region.

In the first part of a two-part article, we focus on a number of projects in Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand, that are either already under construction or being planned, including a handful of ambitious long-term developments.

NEPAL

In November 2023, local media announced that the government of Nepal decided to proceed with the project to develop Nijgadh International Airport, a second international airport for Kathmandu. The decision came after the Supreme Court nullified a previous government decision regarding the airport’s construction in 2021 on environmental grounds.

According to the existing master plan, the airport will initially boast one runway and a passenger terminal with a capacity of 15mppa. With the addition of a second runway and future terminal expansions the airport could ultimately be capable of handling upto to 60 million passengers yearly. The project is now going through an environmental impact study.

In the meantime, plans still exist to build a new international passenger terminal at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport at a cost of $374 million. According to plans released in 2016, the 9,300sqm terminal will have six contact stands and a capacity of 7.5 million passengers per annum.

If completed, the current international terminal will be converted into a domestic terminal, enabling the airport to serve 12 million annual passengers. Accordingn to local media, the plan is still very much alive, although it will likely have to be executed as a PPP project considering Nepal’s chronic money problems.

INDIA

India is going through an incredible airport construction boom, similar to that of China in the 2000s and 2010s, with dozens of existing airports being expanded across the country and new ones planned or being built to to ensure that the country has the capacity to meet future demand. Just focusing on India’s biggest cities arguably reveals some of the most ambitious airport development projects across the globe.

Phase 1 of the greenfield Navi Mumbai International Airport is scheduled to open in March 2025. With an investment of $1.8 billion, the airport will initially boast a single 3,700 metre runway and a 523,000sqm passenger terminal capable of handling up to 20 million passengers per annum.

Being built by the Adani Group, the new gateway will officially be known as D.B. Patil International Airport and also boast cargo facilities with the capacity to accommodate up to 800,000 tonnes of freight annually.

A second runway and two additional terminal modules can later be added at the Maharashtra stated located gateway, potentially raising its capacity to 60 million passengers and 1.5 million tonnes of cargo annually.

Meanwhile Mumbai’s existing Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport is planning to demolish and rebuild its Terminal 2 due to structural and safety concerns.

The demolition is scheduled for next year, coinciding with the operational start of Navi Mumbai International Airport in March 2025, to ensure minimal disruption in passenger traffic. A new terminal is expected to replace T1 within three years of construction, featuring an underground tunnel connection to Terminal 2 (T2). Elsewhere in India, with the recent opening of the rebuilt Terminal 1, Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL) now has three passenger terminals offering a combined capacity of 100 million passengers per annum.

The 2016 master plan calls for the development of a new domestic terminal (T4) with an annual capacity of 40 million passengers. The airport, located in India’s National Capital Territory, is expected to decide on the project in the next few years.

Developments at DEL have arguably been overshadowed in the media by expected late 2024 opening of Noida International Airport near Delhi. The airport has been given the IATA code ‘DXN’ and will initially be equipped nwith a single 3,900-metre runway and a 12 million passengers per annum capacity terminal.

However, according to the airport’s master plan, four more runways can be built, and the airport’s capacity can be gradually raised to 30 million passengers per annum, then 50 million, and ulitmately 70mppa. But, with DEL’s ambitious expansion plans and its location much closer to the city, one can wonder if Noida will grow to be a huge airport anytime soon.

Viewed as an alternative to Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport, Noida is being built, and will be operated by Yamuna International Airport Private Limited (YIAPL), a special purpose vehicle set up for the job and 100% owned by Zurich Airport International.

In Karnataka state, Bangalore Kempegowda International Airport opened its new 255,000sqm Terminal 2 last September (See page 34). With a capacity of 25 million passengers per annum, it has effectively equipped the airport to handle in excess of 50 million passengers yearly.

The airport is currently refurbishing its Terminal 1, raising its capacity from 26.5 million to 35 million passengers. This entails transforming the international areas into domestic zones and upgrading baggage, security, and other facilities.

Additional development phases involve completing the second phase of T2, which would raise the airport’s capacity by a further 20 million passengers, meaning that Kempegowda would be able to handle around 80 million passengers annually.

Longer-term developments include a new Terminal 3, the location of which will be determined in the late 2020s. Additionally, plans are underway to connect T1, T2, and eventually T3 with an automated people mover system (APM).

In the meantime, there is talk about building a second airport for Bengaluru to relieve the pressure on Kempegowda. One option is to revive the city’s old Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Airport. HAL Airport, located in the city centre, was shut down in 2008 when Kempegowda airport opened.

Elsewhere, in Telangana state, Hyderabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International Airport has just completed a terminal expansion, raising its capacity to 34 million passengers annually.

The airport’s master plan foresees a second parallel runway and passenger terminal, increasing the total capacity to 80mppa. The new infrastructure will be developed according to demand. Other key developments include additional cargo terminals, landside commercial developments, and a metro rail connection to the city.

Another interesting project to highlight is Dholera International Airport, a new gateway planned for the Dholera Special Investment Region (DSIR) in Gujarat state in north western India. It will also be a supplemental airport for Ahmedabad, located 80 kilometres away. If the project really takes off, the airport could ultimately have two parallel runways (3,800 and 4,000 metres long respectively) and the capacity to accommodate up to 50 million passengers annually.

Phase 1 of the project, which involves an investment of $165 million, is now underway and is scheduled for completion in 2026.

Interesting things are also happening in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, where there are plans to build a second airport to serve the city of Chennai. The proposed site for new airport is near Parandur, which is around 70 kilometres from Chennai and 60km from the city’s exisiting Chennai International Airport.

Phase 1 plans for the new airport at Parandur include a single 4,040 x 45-metre runway, a 345,758sqm passenger terminal with a 20mmpa capacity, and a cargo terminal and truck docking area covering 230,500sqm.

The new airport will be connected to Chennai by an expressway and light rail connection. Construction is scheduled to start in January 2026 and be completed in 2028. Three additional phases, adding a parallel runway and two more passenger terminals, are to be developed through the 2040s.

Its potential construction seems to have had little impact on Chennai International Airport’s own developmpent plans, as it is currently expanding its passenger terminal to allow it to handle 35 million passengers annually. And looking a little further into the future, the airport has outlined proposals for a 15mppa capacity boarding concourse that would raise its annual capacity to 50 million passengers.

Finally, in the Indian state of West Bengal, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata is currently carrying out the $200 million expansion of its passenger terminal. It is anticipated that a 5,600sqm extension to the terminal will allow the airport to handle an extra two million passengers annually, raising its capacity to 28mppa. In the medium-term, the airport will build a new 11 million passenger capacity terminal and, in the long-term, has plans for a third terminal capable of accommodating 22 million passengers annually, enabling the airport to reach a capacity of 61 million passengers.

BANGLADESH

Dhaka’s Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (DAC) is currently close to completing the construction of a new Terminal 3 at a cost of $2 billion. Set to open in October 2024, the new 542,000sqm terminal will have 12 close contact stands and a 12mppa capacity, allowing the airport to handle up to 20 million passengers annually.

In addition to the new terminal, a 63,000sqm cargo complex is also under construction at the airport. When complete, DAC will be capable of handling 500,000 tonnes of freight annually – 300,000 tonnes more than today.

In March 2024, local media reported that the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) was moving forward with plans to construct a second runway at Dhaka, which will function as a backup runway. The feasibility study has recently been completed.

A second runway is necessitated by the expected increase in aircraft movements once the third terminal of the airport becomes operational in October 2024. In addition, plans exist to lengthen the existing runway from 3,200 to 3,658 metres.

Elsewhere in Bangladesh, the runway at Cox’s Bazar International Airport is being lengthened to 3,566 metres. The airport, which serves the resort town of Cox’s Bazar, also intends to build a new passenger terminal, apron, taxiways, cargo building, ATC tower, and other support facilities. A feasibility study will be undertaken in 2024.

Meanwhile, Saidpur Airport, located in the north of the country, wants to be upgraded to an international airport. For it to happen, the airport’s runway would have to be extended from 1,800 metres to 3,700 metres. Authorities have had trouble finding funding for the project, which has been budgeted at $456 million. A feasibility study will get underway in the coming weeks.

CAMBODIA

The new Pnomh Penh-Techo Takhmau Airport is expected to open in 2025. Built at a cost of $932 million, Phase 1 facilities will include a single 4,000-metre runway, a 243,000sqm passenger terminal with the capacity to handle 13 million passengers annually, and an airport city development. The airport will be connected to the city by means of expressway and a light rail line.

The addition of a second 4,000-metre runway and expansion of the passenger terminal in the Phase 2 development of the airport in 2030 is expected to raise its capacity to 30 million passengers per annum.

Phase 3, which will be built by 2050, will see the construction of a satellite concourse, raising the airport’s capacity to 50 million passengers per annum.

Elsewhere, Battambang Provincial Airport, inactive as a commercial gateway for over three decades, is set for a major rehabilitation and expansion to accommodate international flights, aiming for a 4C classification. The project will require rehabilitating the airport’s 1,600-metre runway.

The airport originally opened in 1967 but ceased operations in 1975 due to the Khmer Rouge regime. It briefly served military and UN helicopter operations until its closure in 1991. Currently, parts of the facility are used as a food market, with no confirmed timeline for the reopening.

In March 2024, it was announced that Focus Consortium, in collaboration with the State Secretariat for Civil Aviation (SSCA), had initiated a feasibility study for Mondulkiri Airport. Authorised in January, the study aims to assess the viability of constructing a new airport and a multi purpose satellite city on a Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) basis.

The consortium, comprising investors from Cambodia, Malaysia, China, Europe and the Middle East, will determine the projects’ feasibility and potential investment requirements.

This initiative follows a previous unsuccessful attempt by China Power, halted by the COVID-19 pandemic, to develop the airport on a 300 hectare site near Senmonorom city, with an estimated cost of over $80 million.

VIETNAM

According to the government’s Masterplan on National Airport Development, Vietnam will expand its airport system from 22 airports to 30 airports by 2030, and to 33 airports by 2050. In the meantime, many existing airports are slated for expansion, a selection of some of the biggest projects are listed below.

After the completion of the new Terminal 3 at Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat Airport in April 2025, the airport will focus on expanding the existing Terminals 1 and 2. The expansion, expected to cost $1 billion, will raise its capacity from 46 to 76 million passengers per annum.

It is, of course, almost impossible to talk about airport development in Vietnam without providing an update on Ho Chi Minh City’s eagerly awaited Long Thanh International Airport.

Phase 1 of the new greenfield gateway is due to be completed in the first half of 2026, at which time it will have a 25 million passengers per annum capacity terminal building, single 4,000-metre runway, and cargo facilities capable of handling 1.2 million tonnes of cargo yearly.

The Airports Corporation of Vietnam (ACV) is planning to build a second runway for Long Thanh International Airport directly after the first runway becomes operational. For this, ACV will utilise an estimated VND4 trillion ($162 million) saved from the first phase of the airport project.

By the mid-2030s, two more runways and three more terminals will be added taking the total cost of the new airport to in excess of $18.7 billion. By this time, the airport will have a total capacity of 80-100 million passengers and five million tonnes of cargo annually.

More imminently, in Hanoi, work starts this year on a project to expand Terminal 2 at Noi Bai International Airport and raise its capacity from 10 million to 15 million passengers annually, and subsequently the total capacity of the airport to 50mppa. Construction is to be finalised in 2026.

Looking further into the future, the airport’s master plan includes proposals for a new Terminal 3, third runway, and new cargo and MRO facilities. The extra additions will raise the airport’s capacity to at least 60 million passengers and two million tonnes of cargo annually.

And with demand for air travel expected to soar in Vietnam over the coming decades, the Hanoi city government has approved plans to construct a second airport for the city, with work on it anticipated to begin in 2040 and be completed by 2050. It is provisionally expected to have two runways and a capacity of 50 million passengers per annum.

The new airport will be located in Ung Hoa District in the south of the city and serve as back up to Noi Bai International Airport as growing demand is being matched by Hanoi’s growing population, which is forecast to reach 23 million by 2050.

Vietnam’s big build also includes upgrading the facilities at Da Nang International Airport. The current plan is to raise the airport’s capacity to 25mppa by 2030 and 30mppa by 2050.

To achieve these targets, the airport will need to expand its domestic terminal and have its runway extended by 142 metres to 3,190 metres. After 2030, the airport is expected to construct a new 15mppa capacity third terminal (T3), renovate T1 and combine it with T2 to handle international operations, build another 3,190-metre runway and construct additional cargo and MRO facilities.

Cat Bi International Airport is also getting an upgrade. The airport, which serves Hai Phong, the country’s fourth largest city, is building a new domestic terminal. The new and extra cargo facilities which will help raise the airport’s capacity to five million passengers and 100,000 tonnes of cargo annually. With passenger numbers to Hai Phong predicted to hit new heights going forward, there are plans to further increase the airport’s capacity to 13mppa by the mid-2030s and 27.6mppa by 2045.

The region’s blueprint for the future involves the opening of a new international airport in Hai Phong by 2050 after which Cat Bi International Airport will be converted to a gateway.

THAILAND

Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK), Thailand’s gateway to the world, is set to more than double its capacity to ensure that it is equipped to meet future demand.

The Thai hub is currently capable of handling around 60 million passengers per annum and handled 51.6 million passenger in 2023.

The plan is to expand the airport’s capacity to 150 million passengers per annum by 2030 through the expansion of the current terminals, construction of a new terminal and addition of two new runways, the first of which is set to open this year.

The city’s former main airport, Don Muang International Airport (DMK), is also being upgraded. The airport, located around 20 kilometres north of downtown Bangkok, is to get a new $1.3 billion international Terminal 3 (T3).

The 160,000sqm complex at DMK will feature 12 additional aircraft stands, of which 11 will be equipped with boarding bridges. Meanwhile, Terminals 1 and 2 will be rehabilitated and turned to domestic use.

There are plans for a new Automated People Mover (APM) system to connect the three terminals. Landside expansion will create 100,000sqm of extra space for retail/F&B outlets and car parking. Other developments include new MRO facilities, a cargo warehouse, and an office building.

Construction of the new Terminal 3 is scheduled to start in 2025 and be completed by 2029, at which time Don Muang will have an annual capacity of 50mppa – 20 million more passenger per annum than today.

In addition to transforming BKK and DMK, there is talk of a possible third airport for Bangkok being built 50 kilometres west of the capital in Nakhon Pathom province. The project is currently in the feasibility stage airport, and is expected to come with price tag of close to $700 million.

If it does happen, the new airport would have a single terminal and a 2,500 metre long runway and effectively function as a reliever airport for Bangkok’s main airports. Outside of Bangkok, Thailand is to start construction of its $9 billion U-Tapao aviation city this year. It involves turning the Vietnam war-era U-Tapao Airport, located 130 kilometres south-southwest of Bangkok, into the country’s third main international airport.

The plans are currently being updated with a new master plan set to be unveiled later in 2024, but confirmed plans today include the construction of a new midfield terminal complex, parallel runway, cargo centre, an MRO boulevard and an airport city development.

It is anticipated that the airport will be connected to Bangkok and Suvarnabhumi airports by means of a high-speed train.

In southern Thailand, work on the expansion of Phuket International Airport’s international terminal is due to start later this year. Scheduled for completion in 2027, the new terminal will increase the airport’s capacity from 12.5 million to 18 million passengers per annum.

Airports of Thailand (AOT) is also conducting a feasibility study to decide whether it is worth building a new $2 billion airport in neighbouring Phang Nga province to support operations at the existing Phuket and Krabi airports. The proposed new gateway, Andaman International Airport, could open as early as 2031.

Its Phase 1 development plans call for the construction of a 15mppa capacity passenger terminal and a single 3,300-metre runway. Later development phases, timed according to demand, would include a second runway and expanding the terminal to allow it to accommodate up to 40 million passengers annually.

In northern Thailand, Chiang Mai International Airport is being expanded to handle 20 million passengers annually, and AOT is preparing a feasibility study for the construction of a second airport for the city and region.

If it happens, the new Lanna International Airport will be built on an 11 square kilometre plot of land in the Ban Thi district of the adjacent province of Lamphun about 25 kilometres from Chiang Mai city. It is esimated that the new airport would cost around $2 billion to build and could be completed in seven years.

In part two of this article in the next issue of Asia-Pacific & Middle East Airports magazine we will focus on Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Mongolia, Greater China, South Korea, Japan, and the Philippines.

• This article first appeared in sister publication, Asia-Pacific & Middle East Airports, which Aviation Media produces on a quarterly basis for ACI Asia-Pacific & Middle East.

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