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Govt Plans To Say Goodbye To Wattay Airport

The Lao government expects that it will soon grant a licence to a local and a Chinese joint venture to carry out a feasibility study on the construction of a new international airport in Vientiane.

“A memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the project study is now under negotiation and it is expected to be signed within this month,” Director General of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport’s Civil Aviation Department, Mr Yakua Lopangkao said recently.

“The project will be about 35km from the city centre along Road No 13 South,” Mr Yakua said.

The study is expected to take at least two years to see if the area is suitable, after which the department will report the study results to the government for recommendation or comment.

“The project will have to shun or keep away from densely populated areas and impose the smallest impost to the community,” he said. “Once the construction of the project starts it will take at least 5 years.”

The new international airport is expected to replace the existing Wattay International Airport because “We have estimated that the current airport will reach capacity and become crowded somewhere between 2020 to 2025,” he said.

“So it is not so long, from now it is only about nine years or so. Once we integrate into the Asean Economic Community (AEC) and sign up to the Asean Open Skies framework we expect that passengers numbers will exceed the capacity at the existing airport.”

The government initially planned to build a new international airport in the area of Dongmarkhai in Xaythany district, on Road No 10 about 18km from the city.

However, in 2008, the project study concluded by a Korean company noted that the area proposed, a 5,000-ha site, already had many residences, offices, a market and the National Stadium nearby and was not particularly suitable due to the urban expansion of Vientiane.

“So the government has agreed to find a new area for the project,” he said.

“We do not know how many hectares will be included in the new study area as we have to wait and see the study results.”

The proponents say the new airport is needed because the existing international airport will not be large enough in the future and there was no land available to extend it.

A larger airport is necessary because the number of passengers is predicted to increase due to the growth of the regional Asian economy. The new airport would greatly benefit the Lao economy and the tourism industry. Some foreign airlines would want to use the airport because of political unrest in some neighbouring countries.

The existing international airport will be used for another purpose. It could become an airfield for use by government leaders’ planes or be used by a pilots’ training school that the government plans to build.

Source: Vientiane Times