Thailand - Country Commercial Guide
Aviation

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data

Last published date: 2021-08-15

Overview

Thailand relies on imported aviation equipment and is a net-importer of aviation products, including aircraft, parts, maintenance services, and airport/ground support equipment. U.S. aviation equipment and technology are well received by Thai buyers.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a sharp decrease in the number of inbound and outbound passengers, resulting in the major Thai airlines undergoing restructuring. However, a return to normal operations is expected once travelers are vaccinated and domestic and international flights resume. Nonetheless, the Airports of Thailand (AOT) and the Department of Airports continue to expand facilities to enhance capacity and connectivity between small cities and the capital city and with major tourist attractions. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Thailand’s major international airport, Suvarnabhumi, had become overloaded with passengers exceeding its annual 45 million passenger capacity.

Thailand’s Ministry of Transport also approved a major development project valued at $1.9 billion for the construction of new terminals at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport in anticipation of COVID-19 recovery of international travels. The project is scheduled to be completed by 2024 and will include East, West and North Wing expansions that are expected to increase the airport’s annual handling capacity by another 60 million passengers. Other aviation support agencies under the Thai government that may initiate procurement projects from time to time included the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) and the Aeronautical Radio of Thailand Ltd. (Aerothai).

Thailand’s Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) development also includes aviation. The U-Tapao Airport development and maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) at U-Tapao are among the top five projects. The EEC is targeting $7 billion in investment in MRO and aviation-related industries over the next five years. Other projects include high-speed rail connecting three major airports (Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang, U-Tapao) and deep-sea port expansions complementing the EEC development.

Apart from MRO, aviation-related businesses such as logistics, catering, and land transport services will be developed. As a result, Thailand is expected to assume a more important role as a regional hub. Thai airlines and aviation industry are open to opportunities for U.S. aircraft parts and aerospace equipment suppliers.

Table: Thailand’s Aviation – Aircraft and Parts (Millions USD)

 

2018

2019

2020

2021 (Estimated)

Total Local Production

1,074

922

2,921

2,974

Total Exports

967

830

2,629

2,676

Total Imports

3,065

2,121

1,118

1,138

Imports from the U.S.

994

704

317

323

Total Market Size

3,172

2,213

1,410

1,436

Exchange Rate

31

31

31

31

(total market size = (total local production + imports) – exports)

Source: Customs Department, Thailand’s Ministry of Finance

Leading Sub-Sectors

  • Aircraft and Parts (AIR)
  • Airport and Ground Support Equipment (APG)
  • Aviation Services (AVS)

Opportunities

The aviation and aerospace industry sectors are expected to recover gradually from the downturn in 2020, which was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Thailand is centrally located in the heart of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and will benefit both from the increasing number of tourists and foreign investors once international travel resumes.

With the government’s Thailand 4.0 initiative and S‐Curve industry clusters which include aviation and defense, Thailand plans to expand the Thai Navy‐owned U‐Tapao Airport near the Eastern Seaboard into a new MRO hub. The U-Tapao airport and MRO center are one of the high priority projects for Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) development, aiming to accommodate 15 million passengers/year and to accommodate three aircrafts undergoing maintenance at a time. The project value is estimated at $9.3 billion under the public‐private partnership (PPP) approach.

With an estimated total area of 2,570 acres, the U‐Tapao project will consist of six major activities:

  1. Passenger terminal building 3
  2. Commercial gateway and ground transportation center
  3. Maintenance, repair, and overhaul
  4. Cargo village or free trade zone
  5. Cargo complex
  6. Aviation training center

Apart from the airport expansions currently underway at several major airports, including Suvarnabhumi and U-Tapao, opportunities exists for MRO services. Major Thai airlines are expecting MRO service to generate more revenues, in line with the commercial airline core business, including catering and cargo services. With the Thai Government’s aim for Thailand to become a service center in the region, government promotion of MRO activities appears in the EEC. Opportunities exist for American aviation/aerospace suppliers and service providers to sell aerospace products and services or to join with local partners to develop research and development (R&D), maintenance, repair, and operations facilities in Thailand.

Products demanded includes airport construction equipment, ground support equipment, aircraft and parts, MRO services, research and development, human resources (particularly training for pilots and mechanics), aviation safety advisory, security equipment, passenger service equipment, baggage screening, and ground support vehicles.