Vietnam to upgrade overstretched airport in Ho Chi Minh City

By Huu Cong   August 12, 2016 | 02:43 am PT
The defense ministry will consider a proposal to expand the airport to a military base.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) has proposed a plan to build a new terminal at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City, seeking to increase the airport's capacity by 30 percent to 40 million passengers a year.

The airport has been stretched beyond its 25 million capacity and is expected to handle 31 million passengers this year, Lai Xuan Thanh, CAAV's director, said at a meeting attended by Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung on Thursday.

The airport, designed to handle both domestic and international flights, has become increasingly overloaded. Aviation authorities have had no choice but to cut the number of arrivals and departures to 38-40 flights per hour from the previous 40-42, said Thanh.

They have even turned to a nearby military base to ask if it can accommodate passenger flights. The Ministry of National Defense is expected to make a final decision on the request next week.

The aviation official said that the overload is due to lack of air space, limited ground services and traffic congestion near the airport.

“My flight from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City yesterday had to circle for 35 minutes before landing,” Thanh said.

There have been a few expansion options suggested for what was once a U.S. air base, but the airport has been engulfed by the fast-growing urban sprawl.


Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung during a field trip to discuss the expansion of Tan Son Nhat Aarport. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Cong

The expansion plan has received preliminary approval from Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung, who said a new terminal would double the annual capacity and resolve overloading at Tan Son Nhat.

Dung added that the new Long Thanh International Airport, 40 kilometers to the northeast of Ho Chi Minh City, will ease the strain on Tan Son Nhat. But the first phase of construction will not start at least until 2019; by 2025, Tan Son Nhat could be swamped by a massive 50 million passengers a year.

The expansion would be funded through a partnership between the government and private companies or through the build-own-operate (BOT) model at some of the airport's facilities, Dung said.

Vietnam, one of the fastest-growing airline markets in Asia Pacific, had previously forecast that air passenger traffic would reach 32.4 million people by 2020.

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