U-tapao airport, or the Pattaya Airport is about 90 km south of Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand. The airport originated as a Royal Thai Navy Airport and was frequented by the US Air-force during the Vietnam war. It was during the beginning of the war that Pattaya became the major draw for US servicemen who were stationed at nearby U-tapao.
The half moon bay beckoned like a siren and the men followed. The golden sands, the clear water, the warm temperatures, all drew the men, and the men drew the businesses that built up around them. A town that grew from a modest fishing village to a world renowned tourist destination in just half a century fueled by the American Military. Today the easiest access to Pattaya is to fly directly to U-tapao airport bypassing either airport in Bangkok.
In 2008 U-tapao Airport became the main hub for Thailand during the conflicts in the capital that shut down both Suvarnabhumi Airport and Don Mueang. The infrastructure was not capable of handling all the traffic, however during that brief period at the end of 2008 it was discovered that this airport was actually in very close proximity to the capital city, especially for those incoming on international flights.
The expansion that has been underway since 2013, came about as a result of the other two airports being taken over by protesters. This works out well, since those airports are both operating beyond capacity currently. U-tapao will be able to relieve some of the congestion whilst giving travelers that want to go beyond Bangkok a viable option without having to set foot in the crowded capital.
New Terminal Information
The new terminal to bolster the infrastructure of the U-tapao airport is due to open June 2016. When the new terminal is completed it will raise the yearly passenger capacity of the airport to 3,000,000 from only 800,000. The civilian side is working in conjunction with the military side and many carriers have been able to add services to the airport already. New routes and flights began being added as early as February 2015 in anticipation of the expansion.
The airport currently services freight traffic more than passenger traffic, however as tourism continues to expand in Pattaya and Thailand as a whole the airports and infrastructure are trying to keep up.
International Routes added to U-Tapao Airport in 2015 & 2016
Thai Airasia added flights direct from Pattaya to China in September 2015. Their base of operations is the airline’s fifth base and they are looking toward strong growth in 2016. Thai Airasia is now serving Nanning in the southwest direct from U-Tapao four times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays while Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday they service Nanchang in southeast China.
In further anticipation of more growth Thai Airasia has commissioned two Airbus A320s for use in their fleet at U-tapao International Airport.
In November 2015 Thai Airasia added two additional routes, one international to Macau, Singapore and the other a domestic flight to Udon Thani, very convenient again for those that want to visit other parts of Thailand without having to go through Bangkok. By the end of 2016 Thai Airasia will have seven bases throughout Thailand all of which will be connected to Greater China and Pattaya is connected to Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur giving travelers many more options for travelling in and around Thailand easier.
In January 2016 both Hong Kong Airlines and China Southern will be operating flights to and from U-Tapao Airport. China Southern has begun with daily service between Pattaya and Shanghai Pudong. Hong Kong Air will operate four flights per week. The R Airline is operating daily flights from U-Tapao to Tai Yuan and Wuhan. Pattaya Airlines is expected to resume operations as well, and more carriers are working on their business plans. Those still in the planning phase are Emirates, and Okay Airways.
Facilities and Shopping
U-Tapao Airport historically has been for freight, and charter flights serving very few passengers yearly. As a result the facilities are not extensive, or large however they do cover all the basics. You will find a Post Office, an internet cafe, both a coffee shop, and a restaurant as well as several shopping opportunities. There is a jewelry store, a duty free shop, and a gift shop. If you want a snack on the go, there is also a convenience store.
Transportation to Pattaya
There is a small taxi counter. The price of a taxi to Pattaya will range usually from 600-800 baht depending on where you are actually staying, and the day and time your taxi transport is required.
by Airport Transfer
There are numerous companies in Pattaya that provide transfer service to and from the airport. Pattaya Central Transfers will provide private transport with a compact car, family car or minivan for 800 THB to 1500 THB depending on the car size selected.
There is also a Minibus counter. This is the least expensive way to travel the Pattaya, it is only 250 baht, however, it is also the most harrowing. Anyone who has ever been to Thailand has seen minivans or minibuses careening down the road, if you have ever been in one, the shared ones get overloaded more often than not, and you may take away one of those stories featured on “When Vacations Attack” Use this service at your own risk.
*Author’s note: I frequently use the minivans and live to tell the tale, however, I’m often told I’m crazy.
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