YANGON: Myanmar wants to build a fourth airport and develop it as an aviation hub for international travel -- the upcoming Hanthawaddy International Airport will be located in the Bago Region, north of Yangon.
Town planners also want to build a vibrant city around this new airport to turn it into a commercial hub.
Four players, including Singapore's Yongnam Holdings consortium and Korea's Incheon Airport group, have submitted their bids for the project. The other two are France's Vinci Airport and Japan's Taisei Corporation. The winning bidder will be announced before the end of July.
Currently, the Yangon International Airport can handle 2.7 million visitors annually, and its planned expansion will accommodate up to 6 million people. However, the new US$2 billion dollar Hanthawaddy airport, scheduled to be operational by 2018, will be capable of handling at least 12 million visitors every year.
Win Swe Tun, deputy director general of the Department of Civil Aviation, said: "With the land use area, it's about 9600 acres. It means it's nine times bigger than Yangon and also it's close with Bago city. It can have more freely operation of the aircrafts and it is a good location to connect with the ASEAN roadway and also the other industrial zones such as Thilawa.
"For Hanthawaddy project, it's not just to build as an international airport. They have big plans, just like aero-city inside the airport, the airport operations, and to (be involved in) other facilities and to do other business inside -- maybe like the maintenance organisation for aircraft, training centres and also some entertainment, golf courses, (and other businesses), including hotel accommodation."
Yangon is now Myanmar's financial hub. however, the country hopes to create a second commercial hub around Hanthawaddy airport, and possibly build a train network connecting the two cities.
Yangon International Airport only has four aerobridges and has issues handling bigger carriers such as the A380. That is why it aims is to move the bulk of its international operations to a new airport in Hanthawaddy, about two hours' drive from Yangon city centre.
The new airport will be able to handle up to over 30 aerobridges and can easily take on a number of A380 carriers. However, industry players have reservations.
Aung Gyi, managing director of Golden Myanmar Airlines, said: "Yangon international is already here, they should have an upgrade over here. My view is (it can last another) 10 years. Only after that, they should have to move.
"In Yangon, if you look at the international area, the northern end, they can extend it. If this transformation is not done in a proper way, it will affect your growth -- traffic growth and also expenditures.
"Definitely in Myanmar, Yangon is still the gateway -- the major city, the commercial city. So during this period when there's a pick up in traffic, then you're going to change to another one, there'll be many barriers."
Authorities will soon select a company to upgrade and expand Yangon International Airport. They have shortlisted four applicants, including Singapore's Yongnam consortium and Myanmar's Pioneer Aerodrome Services for the US$200 million project.