With traffic across Asia-Pacific rising by 8% to 2.67 billion passengers in 2015, there is little doubt that the region remains one of global hotspots for growth and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.
The total cemented Asia-Pacific’s status as the world’s biggest aviation market and arguably acted as another timely reminder that the region has to continue to develop its airports to ensure that it has the capacity to avoid becoming a victim of its own success.
Many countries are already doing this, of course, as the huge number of ongoing or recently finished airport projects in Australia, Bahrain, China, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia and the UAE testify, but what about elsewhere in the region and in particular some of the fast developing countries?
Well, as you would expect, it is very much a mixed bag with many projects planned, underway or in the pipeline, although finding the funds to carry out the work, like elsewhere in the world, remains the biggest obstacle to their development.
And this is a slight worry as according to a new report looking specifically at airport development in South East and East Asia, capacity constraints at many major airports are slowing growth.
In terms of what is being planned today, the Brooks Market Intelligence report, Airports in South-East and East Asia, Capital Investment Programmes – 2016, notes that the general upward trend in passenger traffic, fuelled by the liberalisation of air travel and trade and increased economic activity across the region, has led to a number of ASEAN countries taking steps to increase their airport capacity.
The report covers developments in ASEAN’s ten member countries (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) as well as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Timor-Leste.
This article provides a snapshot of what is going on in Brunei, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam based on Airport World’s own research and the report’s findings.
As the report reveals, Brunei International Airport in the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, is the only gateway in the tiny state of Brunei Darussalam, which is located on the north coast of Borneo.
Operated by the government, work on the first $100 million phase of the airport’s master plan began in October 2012 and includes upgrades to the passenger terminal, cargo facilities, airfield and general operating systems as well as a new 660-vehicle capacity car park.
To date the terminal development part of the project – scheduled for completion this year – has created a new-look Arrivals Hall, more than doubled the number of check-in desks and added new security areas and state of the art baggage handling system.
Phase 2 of the master plan, which will be built subject to demand, includes proposals for the construction of a new passenger terminal, new cargo complex and a Royal Pavilion to ultimately equip the airport to handle up to 6mppa.
A consortium comprising Changi Airports International (CAI) – the international investment and operations arm of the Changi Airport Group – and AECOM Asia Co Ltd is advising the Brunei Economic Development Board, the government agency responsible for the upgrade.
There are 11 commercial gateways in the country officially known as the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, the best known of which are Wattay International Airport in capital Vientiane, and the international airports of Luang Prabang and Pakse.
All three along with the smaller Luang Namtha are operated by the Lao Airport Authority (LAA), with the rest of the nation’s airports either managed by provincial governments and/or the military authorities.
Under the umbrella of the government’s seventh National Socio-Economic Development Plan 2011-2015, which includes a $50 million budget for new airport infrastructure, feasibility studies are being conducted for a new airport for Vientiane while further upgrades are planned for Luang Prabang International Airport.
The latest news on the planned new airport for Vientiane is that it is expected to be built by a joint Lao-Chinese company on a yet to be identified site on the outskirts of the capital and replace Wattay International sometime after 2028.
The government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with a Chinese company to prepare a new feasibility study to decide on the exact location – a process that is expected to take another year – after it was decided that the original site in the Xaythany district, some 18 kilometres from the capital, was no longer suitable.
The Vientiane Times has previously quoted Yakua Lopangkao, Director General of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport’s Department of Civil Aviation, as saying: “The project will have to stay away from densely populated areas and impose minimal impact on the community. Once the construction of the project starts it will take at least five years to complete.”
Meanwhile, Vientiane’s existing airport is to get a near $100 million facelift courtesy of a two-storey 2,100sqm extension to the recently built International Terminal, construction of a new two-storey Domestic Terminal and the opening of an aircraft maintenance hangar, additional car parks and new approach roads.
The projects, which will be funded by the Japanese government through an Official Development Assistance (ODA) loan, are expected to be completed by May 2018 to ensure that the airport is equipped to handle the 2.8 million passengers that are expected to pass through it annually by 2028.
Around 1.1 million passengers used the airport in 2014, which is more than double the 500,000 that it welcomed as recently as 2011.
Times are certainly changing for The Republic of the Union of Myanmar, formerly Burma, which has plans to build new airports and upgrade others in a bid to enhance the country’s aviation infrastructure.
The country’s principal airports today are Mandalay International Airport, which serves the main tourist centre, and capital city gateway Yangon International Airport. However, with tourism expected to soar from 4.2 million visitors in 2013 to 30 million by 2030, Myanmar’s government is acutely aware of the need for more airport capacity.
Indeed, a third international airport capable of handling up to 3.5mppa was opened in Naypyidaw in 2011, and contracts have been awarded for the expansion of Yangon and Mandalay airports and the construction of a new hub to the northeast of Yangon.
And the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) is expected to seek local and foreign finance for the upgrade of 39 underdeveloped domestic airports.
Things, however, certainly haven’t gone smoothly for the government in terms of the construction of the planned new $1.5 billion Hanthawaddy International Airport after the preferred bidder back in 2013, a South Korean consortium led by Incheon Airport, decided not to take up the option of building, operating and maintaining the gateway.
Now the contract has been awarded to a consortium comprising Singapore’s Changi Airport Planners and Engineers (CAPE), Yongnam Holdings of South Korea and Japan’s JGC Corporation, and construction of the 12mppa capacity gateway is finally expected to begin in 2016 paving the way for a 2020 opening.
Set to be located in Bagu 50 kilometres north east of Yangon, the initial cost of Hanthawaddy will be equally split between the consortium and the Myanmar government, which has secured an ODA loan from the Japanese government for 40% of the $750 million it needs to find to help fund its development.
When completed, the new airport will be the country’s largest and will replace Yangon Mingaladon Airport as the main gateway into Myanmar. A second development phase could raise its passenger capacity to 30 million per annum.
Elsewhere in Myanmar, a consortium comprising Jalux, Mitsubishi Corporation and local company SPA Project Management Ltd has signed a concession agreement to operate Mandalay International Airport for 30 years and begun work on a $135 million project to raise the gateway’s capacity to 3mppa last year.
While Yangon International Airport is to set to get a near $200 million facelift in an expansion programme financed by an international consortium led by Pioneer Aerodrome Services Co, an affiliate of Asia World, a major Myanmar conglomerate.
The upgrade will result in a new domestic terminal and additional apron that will allow the airport to handle up to 6mppa. It welcomed 4.3 million in 2014.
These are heady days for Vietnam, which has a rapidly growing aviation market and, according to a prediction from Goldman Sachs, will become the world’s 21st largest economy by 2025.
To meet the growing needs of the country, the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam (CAAV) has developed a draft plan for air transport that estimates the cost of developing an air transport system of six international and 18 domestic airports at in excess of $10 billion.
The lion’s share of the investment is expected to come from ODA loans from foreign governments and the private sector. It is believed that foreign investors will be allowed to develop some airports under the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT), Build-Transfer (BT) or Build-Operate-Own (BOO) concepts.
The Airports Corporation of Vietnam (ACV) is now responsible for all 22 commercial airports, including the nine international and 13 domestic facilities.
It recently raised close to $50 million from an IPO for 25% of its shares and recent media reports in Vietnam suggest that the government is seeking private investors to buy another 20% stake, which would help fund its ambitious airport development plans.
One of the country’s newest high-profile developments is the new $900 million Terminal 2 at Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport, which nearly doubled the capacity of the gateway when it opened just over a year ago.
The new 10mppa capacity terminal boasts 140,000sqm of floor space across a main terminal building and two piers that between them feature 96 check-in counters, 17 boarding gates and 283 flight information display system (FIDS) screens.
Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport opened the first phase of its newly expanded Terminal 2 last year and will complete the job this year. However, with little land left for further development, the government has decided to build a replacement hub for international services 50 kilometres north of the city.
If all goes to plan Vietnam’s new $5.5 billion super hub could ultimately have three terminals and four runways between them capable of handling up to 100 million passengers annually, although it is likely to have just a single passenger complex and two runways designed to accommodate 20mppa when it opens in 2025.
It is not yet clear what role Tan Son Nhat is likely to perform after the opening of Long Thanh International Airport.
Elsewhere in Vietnam there are plans for a new international terminal for Danang International Airport, which would raise its capacity to 10mppa, while a terminal revamp and two new runways are on the cards for Chu Lai International Airport in a $520 million project.
The government is also seeking foreign investors to develop Hue’s Phu Bai International Airport into a gateway capable of handling 5mppa and wants to build new airports for Ha Long City in the eastern province of Quang Ninh and Lao Cai in its northern border province with China by 2025.