Hat Yai, Chiang Rai Airports Face Closure

28th Oct 2019

AirAsia Plane

Two of Thailand’s international airports are facing a potential closure after being underused.

Airports of Thailand (AOT) president Nitinai Sirismatthakarn said the operator is considering the closure of Hat Yai International Airport in Songkhla province and Mae Fah Luang - Chiang Rai International Airport amid the decline in tourist arrivals in the said airports.

He explained that Hat Yai Airport is set to be merged with Phuket Airport over the next five to six years, and that AOT is planning to construct a second airport in Phuket.

Nitinai underscored that while Hat Yai is an economic area, it is not a travel hub: “People who travel to Hat Yai often find it difficult to catch a plane to other places,” he said.

“Hat Yai Airport has seen a decline in tourists over the past few years, especially from neighbouring countries like Malaysia, and visitors have gradually shifted their primary destination from Hat Yai to Phuket to take advantage of the abundance of connecting flights and tourist attractions there,” he added.

During fiscal year 2019, Hat Yai Airport was said to have serviced only 4.02 million passengers, a decline of 5.6 percent compared to last year, while the number of flights dropped by 7.4 percent to only 2,027 flights annually.

Meanwhile, the Mae Fah Luang Airport is sought to be closed amid inconvenience such as undeveloped facilities and the lack of connecting flights.

AOT said it will also look for ways to recover losses that will be incurred from the closure, such as leasing areas of the airports to private users and providing security services for other organizations.

Apart from the two gateways, four more airports are being operated by the AOT: Suvarnabhumi Airport, Don Muang Airport, Chiang Mai International Airport, and Phuket Airport.