U-Tapao International Airport
U-Tapao–Rayong–Pattaya International Airport
|Airport type||Public / Military|
|Owner||Royal Thai Navy|
|Operator||Department of Airports|
|Serves||Chonburi-Pattaya Metropolitain Area and Rayong|
|Location||Ban Chang, Rayong, Thailand|
|Elevation AMSL||42 ft / 13 m|
U-Tapao International Airport (Thai: ท่าอากาศยานนานาชาติอู่ตะเภา) (IATA: UTP, ICAO: VTBU) also spelled Utapao and U-Taphao, is a joint civil–military public airport serving Rayong and Pattaya cities in Thailand. It is in Ban Chang District of Rayong Province. Its official name is "U-Tapao Rayong Pattaya International Airport".
It also serves as the U-Tapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield, home of the Royal Thai Navy First Air Wing. U-Tapao is the home of a large Thai Airways maintenance facility, servicing that airline's aircraft as well as those of other customers. Due to the blockade of Bangkok's airports by opposition protesters, U-Tapao briefly became the main air gateway to Thailand between 26 November and 5 December 2008. As both of Bangkok's international airports essential to the country's tourist boom are operating beyond capacity as of 2015, U-Tapao in particular has been eyed as an alternate international gateway due to relative proximity to the capital.
U-Tapao lies approximately 90 miles (140 km) southeast of Bangkok, south of Sukhumvit Road at Km. 189, near Sattahip on the Gulf of Thailand, about a 45-minute drive from Pattaya (Thailand's most popular beach resort).
U-Tapao was built by the United States to accommodate B-52 bombers for missions in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia during the Vietnam War. Construction began on 15 October 1965 and was completed on 2 June 1966. U-Tapao was the primary Southeast Asian airfield for US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bombers, called "Bee-hasip-sawng" (B-52) by the local Thais. U-Tapao was a front-line base along with the other US bases at Korat, Udon, Ubon, Nakhon Phanom, and Takhli. The USAF B-52s made regular sorties over North Vietnam and North Vietnamese-controlled areas in Laos, carrying an average of 108 500-pound and 750-pound bombs per mission. U-Tapao was a regular stop on Bob Hope's Christmas shows for the troops.
November 2008 protests in Bangkok
With the temporary closure of Suvarnabhumi Airport and Don Mueang Airport in late November 2008 because they had been occupied by anti-government protestors, U-Tapao became for a time Thailand's main supplementary international gateway. Many airlines arranged special flights to and from U-Tapao to ferry international passengers stranded by the closure of the Suvarnabhumi Airport. Several governments including Italy, Macau and Spain also sent chartered flights to evacuate residents.
As many as 100,000 passengers were stranded in Thailand until early December. Although its runway can accommodate large aircraft, U-Tapao's terminals are not designed to handle more than a few flights a day. Travellers were subject to many hardships, and as the security was not up-to-date, some US-bound flights were diverted to Japan and their passengers required to go through a supplementary security check before continuing.
As Bangkok's two international airports are operating beyond capacity, the government intends to turn U-Tapao into a third major destination for airlines. A new second terminal, which will increase airport capacity from 800,000 to three million persons per year. Terminal 2 was partially opened in November 2018 and was officially opened in February 2019.
There are also 41 direct flights landing from China weekly with more airlines scheduled to announce soon. Airport director, Rear Adm Worapol Tongpricha, said the 620 million baht terminal is the start of a three-year, first-phase development. In the second phase, the government will boost the capacity further to 15 million people.
In late-2018, King Power was awarded a ten-year contract to operate U-Tapao duty-free shops. A partnership between Thai retailer Central Department Store Company (Central Group) and DFS Group will manage retail shops and services, mainly food and beverage, also for 10 years.
Airlines and destinations
Accidents and incidents
On 28 October 1977, a Douglas DC-3 of Air Vietnam en route from Tan Son Nhat International Airport, Ho Chi Minh City, to Duong Dong Airport, Phu Quoc, Vietnam, was hijacked and diverted to U-Tapao Air Base to refuel. Two Vietnamese officials on the aircraft were killed in the hijacking.
- "Passenger statistics for 2015–2019" (PDF). U-Tapao Rayong Pattaya International Airport (in Thai).
- Airport information for VTBU at World Aero Data. Data current as of October 2006.Source: DAFIF.
- Airport information for UTP at Great Circle Mapper. Source: DAFIF (effective October 2006).
- "U Tapao-Pattaya International Airport" (PDF). U Tapao Airport Authority. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 May 2011. Retrieved 6 February 2013.
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-  Archived 6 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine
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- "History". U-Tapao Rayong Pattaya International Airport. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
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- "Bob Hope Visit". Thailand Dog Handlers. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
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- "Latest update on Bangkok, Utapao and Europe flights". EVA Airways. Archived from the original on 2 December 2008. Retrieved 27 May 2018.
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- Page 6, South China Morning Post, 30 November 2008.[not specific enough to verify]
- "Terminal 2 at U-Tapao airport to be fully opened in February". The Nation. 8 November 2018. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
- "U-Tapao airport takes new leap". Bangkok Post. 21 June 2016. Retrieved 21 June 2016.
- Moodie, Martin (21 November 2018). "King Power wins U-Tapao Airport duty free contract; Central Group/DFS alliance gains duty paid and services". The Moodie Davitt Report. Retrieved 23 November 2018.
- "Hijacking description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 5 August 2010.
Media related to U-Tapao International Airport at Wikimedia Commons