Qatar Airways’ first direct non-stop flight to Pattaya, Thailand, has touched down at U-Tapao Rayong Pattaya International Airport, launching the airline’s fifth Thai destination and its first new route to be introduced in 2018.
In a major step toward becoming Bangkok’s third gateway, U-Tapao Rayong – Pattaya International Airport welcomed its first major long-range scheduled airline service on 28 January 2018, when a Qatar Airways launched non-stop flights linking the airport with its Doha hub.
Flight QR828 touched down at U-Tapao Rayong Pattaya International Airport at 6:30 am and was welcomed with a traditional water cannon salute. It was the airline’s first new route to be launched in 2018. Canberra, Australia; Penang, Malaysia; and Cardiff, UK, are to follow later in the year.
The new service will operate four times a week. Qatar Airways will be the first Middle Eastern airline to offer flights to and from Pattaya, one of Thailand’s most popular travel destinations.
The flight supplements the airline’s existing flight schedule to Bangkok, Krabi, Phuket, and Chiang Mai. Flights to Chiang Mai began on 12 December 2017.
As Bangkok’s two international airports are operating beyond capacity, the Thai government intends to turn U-Tapao into the country’s third major facility for airline travel.
“We are delighted to be the first Middle East airline to offer direct flights to Pattaya,” says Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker.
“Having also launched flights to Chiang Mai in Thailand just last month and soon to launch our sixth-daily flight to Bangkok, this new route reinforces and deepens the strong ties that exist between the State of Qatar and the Kingdom of Thailand.”
Director of U-Tapao Airport Authority, Rear Admiral Luechai Sri-Eamgool, is equally upbeat.
“We warmly welcome Qatar Airways’ first direct flight from Doha to U-Tapao Rayong Pattaya International Airport,” the rear admiral says.
“U-Tapao Airport is a cornerstone of the Eastern Economic Corridor that the Thailand government is aggressively developing. These new direct flights will open up further seamless air connectivity for tourists and business visitors looking to visit Pattaya and the Eastern Seaboard, further boosting our tourism industry and also aid in the development of foreign investments into U-Tapao Pattaya.”
Pattaya is a major resort city located on Thailand’s eastern Gulf Coast. It city is a popular holiday destination for travelers from both within Thailand and abroad, seeking to experience the local Thai hospitality and culture or relax on one of Pattaya’s sandy beaches.
The main attractions include the three kilometre-long Pattaya beach, which runs parallel to the centre of the city, the Sanctuary of Truth traditional wooden temple, a floating market, and extensive shopping areas.
Qatar Airways’ new four-times-a-week service to Pattaya offers five-star comfort on its Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, with 22 seats in Business Class and 232 seats in Economy Class.
Qatar Airways has successfully operated services to Thailand for more than 20 years. The airline began services to Bangkok, its first destination in Thailand.
Since then, the airline has been steadily increasing its number of flights to the country due to tremendous passenger demand.
The airline currently operates services 35 times a week to Bangkok, 14 times a week to Phuket, daily to Krabi, and as of last month, four times a week to Chiang Mai.
The new four-times-weekly service to Pattaya increases the airline’s total weekly frequency to 64 flights a week to the Land of Smiles.
From 25 March, the airline will also increase its service to Bangkok to six daily flights, making the total number of flights operated to Thailand to 71 weekly flights.
Qatar Airways will operate a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, with 22 seats in business class and 232 seats in economy class on flights between Doha International Airport and U-Tapao Rayong Pattaya International Airport on its winter schedule.
At Doha, the airline will offer connections to and from Africa, the Americas, Europe, and the Middle East.
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Passengers boarding an AirAsia flight at Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok, Thailand. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.
Originally built as a military airfield, U-Tapao is already a hub for two budget carriers: Thai AirAsia and Nok Air.
Other airlines offering regularly scheduled service at the airport include Bangkok Airways, China Southern Airlines, Donghai Airlines, Hainan Airlines, and Kan Air.
Domestic travel destinations include Chiang Mai, Hat Yai, Koh Samui, Phuket, Udon Thani, and Ubon Ratchathani.
Foreign travel destinations include Kuala Lumper, Malaysia; Macau; and three airports in China: Sanya, Shanghai-Pudong, and Shenzhen. There is also chartered service to Russia and other cities in China.
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Bangkok’s Third Airport?
A park in downtown Bangkok, Thailand. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.
In terms of serving Bangkok’s Central Business District, the airport does not compare favourably with the city’s two existing airports.
The drive to Don Mueang International Airport takes about 45 minutes; the drive to Suvarnabhumi International Airport, about 55 minutes.
The drive to U-Tapao, however, takes a breathtaking 2 hours and 40 minutes, putting it in the same league as Tokyo’s famously inconvenient Narita International Airport.
The airport will, however, prove a boon to travelers wanting to reach Pattaya, one of Thailand’s most popular beach resorts.
Taking toll roads, the 120 kilometres drive from Pattaya to Suvarnabhumi Airport takes 1 hour and 30 minutes. The 160 kilometre drive from Pattaya to Don Mueang takes nearly 2 hours and 30 minutes.
The drive to U-Tapao Rayong – Pattaya International Airport, however, only takes between 45 minutes and an hour.
If Qatar Airways is the first major foreign airline to offer long-range service to U-Tapao, it will surely not be the last. Could Middle Eastern competitors Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways not be far behind?
What about such Asian powerhouses as All-Nippon Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, Korean Air, or Singapore Airlines? And what about such European carriers as Air France, British Airways, Lufthansa German Airlines, and Swiss International Air Lines?
A new second terminal, which will increase airport capacity from 800,000 to three million persons per year, is set to open.
Airport director, Rear Adm Worapol Tongpricha, says the 620 million baht terminal is the start of a three-year, first-phase development, which will boost capacity from 800,000 passengers a year to 3 million.
In the second phase, the government will boost the capacity further to 15 million people.
Pattaya Bay as viewed from Cape Dara, where I spent two nights on a recent trip to Thailand. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.
Located on the popular southeast coast of Thailand, Pattaya and nearby Rayong are major destinations for sun-seekers looking to soak up the local culture or relax and bask on one of the areas extensive beaches.
Holiday-makers on the route are expected to come from Qatar Airways’ extensive network of destinations across Europe and the Middle East.
“We are delighted to announce the launch of our newest route to Pattaya in Thailand, our fifth route to one of Southeast Asia’s most popular destinations,” says Qatar Airways Chief Executive, Akbar Al Baker.
“Thailand is continuing to grow in popularity with our passengers, who love traveling to this beautiful country to enjoy its incredible culture, cuisine and natural scenery.”