Hanoi airport plans expansion to avoid overload crisis

By Vo Hai   May 13, 2017 | 10:14 am GMT+7
Hanoi airport plans expansion to avoid overload crisis
Passengers at Noi Bai Airport. Photo by VnExpress/Doan Loan

Noi Bai is seeking to double its capacity. 

The city of Hanoi is seeking approval to add two terminals at Noi Bai International Airport, anticipating possible overloads in the next few years. 

Hanoi's Party chief Hoang Trung Hai said at a meeting on Friday that Noi Bai cannot risk becoming a another Tan Son Nhat, the country’s largest airport in Ho Chi Minh City which is constantly strained. 

He said the city has applied for permits to build two extra terminals to ease the pressure on the current two, and upgrade infrastructure to serve 50-75 million passengers a year. The city plans to seek private investment for the expansion.

“Noi Bai currently does not look as packed as Tan Son Nhat. But if we don’t expand it now, it will become Tan Son Nhat,” Hai said.

He said the passengers are growing “very fast.”

Noi Bai, designed for 25 million passengers a year, received 20 million in 2016. That was up 20.5 percent from the previous year. Passengers in 2015 also grew 21 percent, according to figures from the airport.

Arrivals are expected to reach its designed capacity within the next three years and then double in less than 20 years, officials said.

Saigon lesson

Down south, Ho Chi Minh City has been grappling with how to scale up Tan Son Nhat effectively. 

In February the airport was granted 21 hectares (52 acres) of military land for a $864 million expansion, which will add two more terminals by 2018 besides runways and aircraft parking space to raise its annual capacity to 45 million passengers.

The airport with two terminals has been serving 32 million passengers annually, well over its design capacity of 25 million.

It has only two runways, which several times were reduced to one because of flooding or lightning strikes. The airport has enough space for 57 aircraft at a time, but sometimes it has to handle more than 70.

Vietnam’s airline market has the third fastest growing pace in Asia-Pacific and the country is trying to solve an acute dearth of airport capacity, with passengers growing 29 percent to 52.2 million in 2016, according to official data.

National flag carrier Vietnam Airlines, low cost carriers Jetstar Pacific and VietJet Air plus the newly founded Vietstar Airlines are planning fleet expansion to have a total of 263 aircraft in the next four years. Vietstar has not been licensed for air transport.

The country is working on a design for a massive airport in Dong Nai province to offload some of the stress from Tan Son Nhat airport, but construction is not expected to be completed by 2025.

Late last month a team of consultants assembled by the Ministry Transport of has picked a lotus-themed design for the airport. This choice is being reviewed by the government.