YANGON—Myanmar’s main airport is expected to exceed passenger capacity this year, officials said Monday, as an influx of visitors to the once-isolated nation prompts plans for a new international flight hub.
Arrivals at Yangon International Airport are expected to surge to around 3 million in 2012, a 22 percent increase on last year that puts it above its 2.7 million threshold, according to the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA).
“We need a new airport because the increasing traffic at the current airport… is quite difficult to handle,” said Nwe Ni Win Kyaw, DCA assistant director.
The planned Hanthawaddy airport will be on a site nine times bigger than the current facility and located about 50 miles (80 kilometers) away from downtown Yangon, the country’s main commercial center.
Work is expected to start in June 2013, with the site set to become operational in 2016.
Veiled from the world for decades under a brutal military junta, the Southeast Asian nation has seen an influx of tourists and business travelers in recent months, attracted by a swathe of changes under a new reformist regime.
Total arrivals in Yangon – including both domestic and international passengers – surged to 1.53 million in the first half of 2012, more than the number that passed through the airport in the whole of 2008.
The city’s current airport, which sees the vast majority of Myanmar’s overseas air traffic, is also slated for expansion, allowing it to cope with the 5.4 million visitors expected in 2015.
“But 5.4 million would be the highest limit we could deal with,” said Nwe Ni Win Kyaw.
Myanmar has two other international airports, in Mandalay and in the capital Naypyidaw, but neither is fully operational.
The new airport plan is part of a larger scheme by the DCA to privatize all the country’s airports.
There are currently 14 international and six domestic airlines flying from Yangon airport and six new foreign carriers are in discussion with the DCA about operating in the country.