Passengers crowd wait to enter the domestic terminal of Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City / PHOTO COURTESY OF VNEXPRESS
Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport must be expanded to serve 26 million passengers a year, even as plans for a substitute airport are under way, according to the leader of an organization that operates the facility.
Online newspaper VnExpress quoted Nguyen Nguyen Hung, chairman of the Airports Corporation of Vietnam (ACV), as saying that the expansion is needed, given that Long Thanh Airport will not go into operation for another 10 years.
Tan Son Nhat reached its designed capacity of 20 million passengers per year at the end of 2013, Hung told a meeting with Transport Minister Dinh La Thang on Thursday.
At its peak time the airport cannot meet the demands of its supposed maximum capacity, which is 26 million passengers per year, he said.
ACV estimated that to be functional at its maximum capacity, Tan Son Nhat will need 60-65 airplane parking lots, instead of 40 lots like now.
It said the airport will be able to add 21 lots, if it makes use of empty land areas and adjacent land owned by the Ministry of Defense.
The corporation also wants to expand the airport’s international and domestic terminals with more space and counters to serve additional six million passengers.
ACV’s proposal came amid controversies over the Long Thanh Airport project, whose construction will start next year in the neighboring province of Dong Nai.
The US$8-billion project was approved by the government in August 2011, but has faced relentless opposition from critics who dismiss it as wasteful and say it would be better to expand the existing airport.
Speaking to Thoi bao Kinh te Saigon (Saigon Times) Online on Friday, Le Trong Sanh, former head of the Tan Son Nhat airport flight management section, said Tan Son Nhat can be expanded more than recent estimates have allowed for, if local authorities reclaim 157 hectares designated for a golf course in its buffer area.
The land will be able to provide at least 30 new parking lots, he said.
Additional parking lots along with the construction of a new international terminal and the expansion of the current domestic terminal could enable the airport to serve 35-40 million passengers per year, according to Sanh.
“It is very unreasonable to allow a golf course in the airport, while it lacks parking lots for airplanes,” he said.
Since it was approved in 2011, the golf course project, invested in by local companies with a total investment of some VND6 trillion ($282.65 million), has drawn objections from many experts and the public.
Opponents said the complex, which will include a pool, hotels, restaurants and schools and go into operation in 2017, will pose threats to airport safety and security.
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