U-Tapao Rayong Pattaya International Airport, mostly known as U-Tapao Airport, is the gateway to Rayong and Pattaya cities in Thailand. It is located in Ban Chang, Rayong, about 140 kilometers southeast of Bangkok.
U-Tapao Airport was built by the US military in 1966 during the Vietnam war to accommodate B-52 bombers for Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. When it was deserted, the Royal Thai Navy took over and used it as a military airfield. The airport is still being used for military exercises while simultaneously serving regular flights managed by the Department of Airports.
In 2008, U-Tapao Airport served briefly as Thailand’s alternative international gateway after operations of Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang airports in Bangkok briefly closed following a political turmoil. It was also the closest international airport to Bangkok.
Among the airlines serving U-Tapao are Malaysia-based AirAsia, Azur Air, Bangkok Airways, Kunming Airlines, Loong Air, Nok Air, Qingdao Airlines, Thai AirAsia, Thai Lion Air, Thai VietJet Air, TUI Airways, and Ural Airlines, while destinations served are Koh Samui, Phuket, Hat Yai, Udon Thani, and Chiang Mai in Thailand as well as Macau, Shanghai, Nanning, Nanchang, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore.
The government of Thailand is mulling over the expansion of U-Tapao airport in a bid to accommodate 15 million passengers in the next five years, 30 million in 15 years, and 60 million in 20 years. The Royal Thai Navy is now in discussions for the construction of additional terminals and a new runway that can accommodate an Airbus A380 aircraft.
In February 2019, U-Tapao Airport’s second terminal was opened to the public and brought its service capacity to three million passengers from only 800,000 previously.
U-Tapao Airport may not be of the same size as the two airports in Bangkok, but it holds a fair number of facilities such as retail outlets for fashion, cosmetics, and travel products. It also houses restaurants, car park, pharmacy, souvenir shops, and an internet café.
Passengers are offered a variety of restaurants inside the airport such as KFC, Auntie Anne’s, Segafredo, Mr. Cup T, Amazon, New York Deli, Coffee World, Drinks and Quick Bites, and Eatery Gardens where dishes are freshly-cooked.
Getting to U-Tapao Airport can be done in many ways. Passengers can opt to travel through a minivan, or through an airconditioned bus if travelling from Bangkok. There are also car-rental services and taxis available at the airport.
Terminals for shared minivan services are located at the Central Festival in Pattaya City and will take you to the airport and vice versa. Just call the management and book ahead of your desired departure to guarantee your ride.
Minibuses offer transfer services to U-Tapao Airport from Bangkok. Schedules are 09:00 a.m., 12:00 nn, and 7:00 p.m. daily.
Taking the taxi is one of the most convenient options for those travelling with large luggage and by group. Cabs are found at the arrival hall of the airport and would take passengers to the desired destination.
Car-rental companies such as Avis, ASAP, Thai Rent-A-Car, Thrifty, BizCar, Chic Car Rent, Rentalcars.com, and National, serve passengers from and to the airport. For guaranteed bookings, you may call them ahead of your arrival or book at their booths located inside the airport.