Vietnam's Ministry of Transport has issued a decision to temporarily shut Dien Bien Airport in the namesake northern upland province for eight months for an upgrade and expansion, starting from mid-April.
The airport, located in Thanh Truong Ward in Dien Bien Phu City, will be closed from April 15 to December 17 this year.
The current Dien Bien Airport was restored from Muong Thanh Airport, which was constructed by the French.
The airport has a runway which is 1,830 meters in length and 30 meters in width, three aprons, and a passenger terminal that was built in 2004 and has an annual capacity of 300,000 passengers.
Due to the short runway and simple landing systems, Dien Bien Airport only serves ATR 72 turboprops and Embraer 190 jets, which can transport a maximum 114 passengers.
The Dien Bien Airport expansion project is aimed at making it capable of handling modern Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft and the equivalent airliners.
VASCO, a subsidiary of national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines, and Bamboo Airways are operating air routes connecting Dien Bien with Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
The Airports Corporation of Vietnam is in charge of managing and operating Dien Bien Airport.
Work on the Dien Bien Airport expansion project started on January 22 last year, with total capital of nearly VND1.47 trillion (US$62.3 million) sourced from the Airports Corporation of Vietnam.
Meanwhile, Dien Bien Province set aside VND1.56 trillion ($66.1 million) from its budget for site clearance.
The project includes lengthening the runway to 2,400 meters and widening it to 45 meters, rebuilding runway turn pads, building more taxiways, installing light systems, and developing some supporting components.
After the expansion project is completed, the passenger terminal of Dien Bien Airport will have two floors and an annual capacity of 500,000 passengers.
The project is slated for completion in the third quarter of 2023.
The Dien Bien People’s Committee had earlier sent a dispatch to the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam reaching a consensus on temporarily closing Dien Bien Airport from April 1, but work on some components was delayed, scrapping the plan.
In 2019, Dien Bien welcomed some 845,000 tourists, with 25,300 of them traveling to the province by air, local media reported.
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