Air travel in Southeast Asia boomed in the 2010s, with new routes opening up previously unconnected provincial cities, and low-cost airlines making long-distance travel more comfortable and affordable. To give you an idea of these boom times, I posted about Vietnam’s aviation market in 2019.
To cater to this new-found demand, old airports have been upgraded and new airports planned. Then Covid-19 happened, which has thrown future growth predictions out the window.
This is a general roundup of airports that are planned or under construction at the start of 2021. There is no way to foresee what the future of travel looks like after the pandemic, so this is not a prediction post or an editorial on if these airports will be required in the near future.
New Phnom Penh International Airport
The new Phnom Penh airport is currently under construction, and it will be the main international gateway for Phnom Penh. The current airport will remain as a domestic airport and for government/military use. Read more about the new Phnom Penh airport.
Siem Reap New International Airport
A new airport for Seam Reap is under construction that will eventually replace the current airport. The most recent report says that the new airport will be 67% done by end of 2021.
While the current airport is a convenient 6km away from the city centre, there are flight restrictions on the current airport due to its proximity to the Angkor Wat temple complex. The new airport is 50km away from the city centre.
Second Jakarta Airport
A second airport for Jakarta has been in planning for years, and the most recent update said that construction of Soekarno-Hatta International Airport II would commence in 2028. Surely they come up with a different name by then, because I could see people forgetting if they are going to airport I or II.
The new airport will be located to the west of Jakarta in Karawang Regency, in Ciampel and Pangkalan districts. The new airport would be on a 3,000-hectare plot of land.
North Bali International Airport
North Bali International Airport is the proposed second airport for Bali. Like the fabled Bali railway, this project gets announced as being on the cusp of starting, yet few details are actually known about each project.
Here is the Living In Asia guide to the North Bali International Airport.
New Capital Airport
Indonesia is planning to build a new capital in the jungle of East Kalimantan, and with the new city will be a new airport. The new capital project was put on hold in 2020, but the government is still planning to restart.
New Vientiane International Airport
A new airport for Vientiane has been proposed to replace Wattay International Airport. A feasibility study was launched in 2015, but in the meantime the current airport was expanded in August 2018.
In the most recent update, the government included the new airport project in their list of large development projects to 2025.
The current airport is 3 km from the city centre, while the new airport would be 35 kilometres from the city centre, located in Xaythany district.
Malaysia had a plan to expand and build new airports in 2020, but pandemic has put those plans on hold. New airports that were planned include Tioman Island airport and Kulim airport in Kedah state. There were also plans to expand Penang International Airport.
Hanthawaddy International Airport
Hanthawaddy International Airport is a planned new airport in Bago Region, about 80km northeast of Yangon. The project originally started in 2001, but it was soon put on hold. After talks to get the project restarted, work began again in 2020. This news reoprt says that it will replace the current Yangon airport, making it the airport that is the furthest away from the city centre in Southeast Asia.
New Manila International Airport
The New Manila International Airport (also known as Bulacan International Airport) is a new airport under construction 35 kilometres north of the city centre. The airport is planned to have 4 runways, making it potentially the largest airport in Southeast Asia.
Read more about New Manila International Airport.
Ninoy Aquino International Airport
Once the New Manila International Airport opens, NAIA will be converted into a domestic airport. There are plans to redevelop the airport, but at this point, it’s unclear what the government intends for its rehabilitation.
Bicol International Airport
Bicol International Airport is a new airport that will replace the old Legazpi Airport. The most recent report says that construction is 72% complete, and the airport is expected to be operational in 2021.
Singapore Changi Airport
Changi Airport began 2020 by starting an extensive upgrade of Terminal 2. This was scheduled to be finished by 2024, but by the time work started it was becoming obvious that the pandemic was going to cause long-term disruption. In May, Terminal 2 was closed completely to allow construction to be completed by the end of 2021. By June, work was halted completely due to the coronavirus and doubts on future traffic.
In addition to the T2 renovation delay, the planned T5 project has also been delayed by 2 years. Terminal 5 is part of the Changi East project which includes the fifth terminal, a third runway, and the Changi East Industrial Zone, along with supporting infrastructure.
Suvarnabhumi Airport expansion
In January 2021 the government approved the expansion of Suvarnabhumi airport to support the post-Covid-19 recovery of air travel. Three new terminals will be built, and a third runway at Suvarnabhumi Airport is also planned, which is expected to be completed by 2024.
Don Muang Airport expansion
In pre-pandemic times, the two airports of Bangkok (Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang) were running at capacity. Don Muang will also be expanded to increase its capacity from 30 million passengers a year to 40 million.
Third Bangkok Airport
In 2019 a third Bangkok airport was proposed to be built in Nakhon Pathom province west of Bangkok. This was proposed to relieve the pressure on the current two airports and provide an alternative airport for residents in the provinces of western Thailand. Not surprisingly, this airport plan didn’t make the news in 2020 in the midst of the global tourism downturn.
U-Tapao airport (near Pattaya) is being expanded to include an “Airport City” and to become a logistics and aviation maintenance hub.
In addition to the airport expansion, there is also the planned 3-airport high-speed railway that will connect Don Muang and Suvarnabhumi to U-Tapao. This railway will effectively turn U-Tapao into a de facto Bangkok airport.
New Chiang Mai Airport
In 2018 the Airports of Thailand board of directors approved the construction of second airports for Chiang Mai and Phuket. The New Chiang Mai Airport will be about 25km southeast of the city centre in Ban Thi district, Lamphun province.
New Phuket Airport
The second Phuket airport is in the Takua Thung District of Phang Nga Province, north of Phuket. It was approved along with the new Chiang Mai airport in 2018, and like the new Chiang Mai airport, there have been few progress reports since then.
In 2020 a feasibility study was completed for Mukdahan airport in the northeastern region. Mukdahan is on the East-West Economic Corridor, and if the project gets the go-ahead, construction will begin in 2025 and will be open by 2027.
Mukdahan is opposite Savannakhet in Laos, on the other side of the Mekong River. Laos had planned to expand Savannakhet, so this airport would be competing for passengers in this catchment area if Mukdahan plans to be a regional hub.
Khon Kaen Airport is undergoing an extension which is due to open in April 2021. This is currently a domestic airport, but the governor of Khon Kaen has mentioned that international flights to Vietnam and Singapore are a possibility in the future.
Long Thanh International Airport
After years (and years) of talks and planning, construction of the new mega airport for Ho Chi Minh City began in January 2021. Read the full profile of Long Thanh International Airport.
Tan Son Nhat airport’s third terminal
While Ho Chi Minh City is building a new airport, it will keep the current Tan Son Nhat airport. A third terminal will be built, and new cargo terminal and roads will be built. This has been held up by the military, who have not handed over land for the project.
Meanwhile, both Tan Son Nhat and Noi Bai in Hanoi made the most of the pandemic down time by carrying out urgent runway repairs.
Hanoi second airport
In 2020 the Hanoi government acknowledged that they will need a second airport in the future. The process to pick the most suitable site is underway, with the most likely location being south of the city (the current airport is to the north).
Phan Thiet Airport
Phan Thiet is the capital of Binh Thuan Province on the South Central Coast region of Vietnam. It’s better known for the Mui Ne beach resort area.
The Phan Thiet airport project will be a civil and military airport. Construction was expected to begin in 2020, though there have been delays.
Sa Pa Airport
Sa Pa is a popular tourist destination in Lao Cai province in Northwest Vietnam. An airport for the province has been planned for several years, and in January 2021 approval was given to assess the Sa Pa airport project.
Sa Pa is located at the foot of Mt Fansipan (the highest mountain in Vietnam), so as you would expect there is scarcely enough flat land for an airport anywhere near the town. The airport would be 80 kilometers away from Sa Pa, so it would be a bit of a stretch to call it Sa Pa airport. The airport would have a runway that can handle A320/737 aircraft, which would enable flights from all of the domestic carriers. Visitors to Sa Pa usually fly to Hanoi and then take a 4-5 hour bus ride to Sa Pa. The airport would also be used for military purposes.