Department of Civil Aviation confirmed, Monday, it will expand Krabi International Airport’s passenger terminal and parking space to ensure the airport can handle 3 million passengers a year by 2015.

Department deputy general director, Seree Jitsopha said : “The renovation is necessary airline visitor arrivals to the province have increased and the airport will need to cater to 3 million passengers by 2015.”

The expansion plan is at the study stage, but construction would need to begin by January 2014 at the latest to meet the 2015 deadline.

Krabi International Airport has welcomed more than 1 million visitors, last year and that is likely to reach 1.6 million this year.

Krabi Airport is now open 24 hours for airlines to land and take off in a move to take pressure off Phuket’s airport that is undergoing expansion. Airlines take off and land at Phuket every 10 minutes on average and this has caused congestion and complaints of noise pollution by residents in the area.

Krabi International Airport was forced to hire 47 officials to cope with the flights that are now being diverted from Phuket.

Located on the mainland, Krabi, about 100 km from Phuket Island, the coastal town is a popular destination for tourists and the gateway for visitors heading for Lanta Island.

The airport is run by the Civil Aviation Department and one of the few airports under its control that makes a profit. It is located 13 km from the provincial town and can accommodate seven Boeing 747s or 14 Boeing 737s at anyone time. The number of passengers at the airport increases by 12% annually. Almost 100 flights arrive and depart at the airport weekly.