The COVID-19 pandemic has hammered tourism in Thailand, but the consensus among most experts is that it is a matter of when and not if visitors return to the Kingdom. This is a fact not lost on Hua Hin. The city is gearing up for a potential recovery by upgrading Hua Hin Airport.
Deputy Transport Minister Thaworn Senneam told local media the planned upgrade calls for the Hua Hin Airport runway to be increased to 3,000 meters in length, a decision that would allow it to handle certain types of long-range aircraft.
Hua Hin Airport is already undergoing a THB250 million renovation that calls for a new taxiway and passenger terminal to be built. Once finished, the facility would be able to accommodate 2.6 million annually.
The latest announcement also caps off a fairly remarkable turnaround for the facility which was closed to commercial flights as recently as 2017. Before that, the only option available for overseas arrivals was to take a three-hour car/minibus journey from Bangkok to resort destination.
In 2018, Air Asia began operating weekly flights that linked Kuala Lumpur to Hua Hin. The move was successful with nearly 45,000 air passengers arriving to Hua Hin Airport in 2019, up from 17,000 the previous year. This was one reason why the government is confident in making the upgrades.
“Demand for air services to Hua Hin is high, as evidenced by the leap in passenger figures right before Covid-19 disrupted travel,” Khun Thaworn told the Bangkok Post. “So further upgrades are necessary, as the International Air Transport Association says the domestic aviation market will return to normal next year, and the international market the year after that.”
No announcements have been made about which airlines may join Air Asia at Hua Hin Airport once renovations are completed in the coming years.