Drastic measures are taking shape to double the capacity of Vietnam’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport in answer to chronic overcrowding and delays.
With statistics recording 32 million passengers passing through the airport in 2016, Tan Son Nhat is far surpassing its design capacity of 25 million air travelers.
With eight more years until Long Thanh International Airport in the nearby Dong Nai Province, the designated successor of Tan Son Nhat, is expected to be completed, officials are working on a way to help alleviate the load.
“[Tan Son Nhat airport] needs to be upgraded to handle between 40 and 50 million passengers each year, a goal which is totally within our reach,” Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung stressed at a meeting between the Vietnamese Government and local administrations on Thursday.
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc is slated to chair a meeting with relevant authorities on Friday to discuss options for the airport’s expansion, Dung said.
The most significant headway for expansion efforts was made after the Ministry of Defense agreed to move all military training operations out of the country’s three major air hubs - Tan Son Nhat, Noi Bai, and Da Nang airports, according to Lai Xuan Thanh, director of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
The acquired military land will be used to build an additional runway, allowing the airport to gradually increase its capacity to 38 million passengers per year by 2019, Thanh said.
Meanwhile, the current T2 terminal will also be expanded to accommodate three million additional passengers, raising the total capacity of its two terminals to 28 million.
A 21-hectare area of military land will be handed over to the Ministry of Transport to expand Tan Son Nhat’s current jet parking space and allow for up to 96 planes to park at a time.
A new mixed-use terminal with a capacity of ten million passengers per year is expected to commence construction in the first quarter of 2017 and be completed within 12 months, according to CAA. The terminal will be built over a three-hectare former military land.
Upon its completion, the three terminals of Tan Son Nhat airport will boast a total design capacity of 38 million passengers a year.
A plan is also taking shape to erect a fourth terminal, expected to span 15 hectares over current military lands and serve up to ten million passengers per year, raising Tan Son Nhat’s capacity to 48 million, CAA estimates.
Satellite transfer stations
In an interview with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper, director of the Southern Airports Authority Tran Doan Mau said the organ was suggesting the establishment of 'satellite' transfer stations located near Tan Son Nhat airport to ease overcrowding in its terminals.
According to Mau, the stations would serve as satellite terminals, with fully integrated information desks, parking lots, check-in counters, and waiting rooms for passengers to await their flight.
Shuttle buses would run between these stations and the airport to transfer passengers directly to their boarding gates, Mau said.
Possible locations for these stations include Gia Dinh Park and Hoang Hoa Tham Street, each located only 500 meters from the airport, according to the director.
“Such stations can be built in six months at a cost of VND500-700 billion (US$22-31 million), compared to VND3-4 trillion ($134-179 million) and three years to build a full terminal,” Mau explained.
With less than one month away from the country’s biggest holiday season of the year, Tet, or Lunar New Year, Tan Son Nhat is expecting an influx of passengers in the weeks to come.
The airport is expected to welcome over 2.5 million passengers between January 20 and February 10, according to estimates by the Airports Corporation of Vietnam (ACV).
Nearly 800 fights will go through the airport on a single day during the season’s peak, ACV said, with the number of daily passengers reaching over 123,000, an increase of more than 11,000 passengers from 2016.