Thailand approves construction of third runway at BKK in bid for regional hub status

This week, Thailand’s Cabinet approved a proposal by the country’s Ministry of Transport for the construction of a third runway at Bangkok International Airport (BKK). The new runway will ease congestion at BKK and support its bid to become a hub for cargo in Southeast Asia. 

The third runway, which will be located parallel to BKK’s western runway, will increase the airport’s current two-runway capacity from 63 to 94 flights per hour, according to the Bangkok Post 

The construction projected cost of approximately US$660 million (21 billion baht), including financial compensation for local residents affected by noise pollution. Construction of the new runway is expected to commence this year and be completed by 2022. 

While BKK handles a significant amount of cargo and ranked as no. 21 on our top 25 busiest cargo airports list, the airport is experiencing increased congestion, which could hamper growth and deter air cargo providers seeking to grow their operations in Southeast Asia. 

The airport’s cargo handle declined by 5.6% to just over 1.5 million tonnes of cargo in 2018. This decline has continued into 2019, with the airport reporting a 10.2% decline in freight, year-over-year, for January and February combined. Mail and small packages throughput numbers at BKK, however, have conversely grown by 18.3%, y-o-y, during these two months. 

The general decline in freight at BKK does not bode well for its cargo operations, but should be viewed cautiously,  as many Asian carriers and airports experienced steep declines in cargo volumes since the beginning of the year, when the impact of the U.S.-China trade war began impacting operations. 

Furthermore, this week’s approval for the construction of BKK’s third runway is a win for Thailand, particularly given the continued debate among airport authorities and Thai government officials that has hindered the development of airport infrastructure in the country for the past several years, as reported on by several Thai news sources. Clearly, Thai authorities increasingly recognize the critical need for aviation infrastructure expansion, especially as other Southeast Asian countries – such as Vietnam and Singapore – are also developing their air cargo infrastructure in efforts to become hubs in the region. 

In addition to the construction of its third runway at BKK, Airports of Thailand – which manages and operates Thai airports – is also planning the expansion of aviation and cargo infrastructure at its airports in Phuket (HKT), Chiang Mai (CNX) and Don Mueang (DMK), according to the Thai Rath