A comprehensive guide to the future new airport of Ho Chi Minh City
Long Thanh International Airport is the planned second airport of Ho Chi Minh City. Situated approximately 40 km east of the city centre, the airport will have enough space to eventually include 4 runways and serve over 100 million passengers annually. Such an ambitious size would put it up there with the largest airports in the world.
The new airport plan was announced as far back as 2004, and since then it has been plagued with delays. At this point land still hasn’t been cleared, and there has been ongoing funding and red tape issues that has held back the start of the project.
The latest update has the project starting construction in 2020 and operating with 1 runway by 2025. This page will be updated as the project progresses, and it includes an archive of major news updates.
Long Thanh International Airport Location
The new airport will be in the neighbouring province of Dong Nai, about 40km east of the city centre.
[View on Google Maps.]
The project site will cover 5,000 hectares (50 Sq KM), which is part of why it’s so far away from the city. While the land looks undeveloped on the map, there are still people living in the area. There is a rubber plantation, farmland, and an estimated 5,000 households with 17,000 people living there.
Another thing to note about the location is that the area east of the Saigon River is part of a master plan to create a new urban area. This area includes the Thu Thiem New Urban Area in District 2, and District 9 which borders Dong Nai province.
Long Thanh International Airport transport
Long Thanh is a long way from the city compared to the current airport, so there will need to be transport infrastructure in place before it opens. Highway access to the airport is already complete, with the Ho Chi Minh City – Long Thanh – Dau Giay Expressway having opened in 2015.
There is also a plan for a new bridge at Cat Lai, where a ferry currently operates on the Dong Nai River. This is not a direct route, but it will add more road capacity and be another option for getting to the airport should there be a problem on the expressway.
There was a proposal to build a dedicated highway between the two airports, to be used exclusively for traffic between the two airports. That will surely not be considered a feasible option.
What is missing is a detailed plan for rail transport. One of the earlier plans had a high-speed railway stop at Long Thanh connected to the new railway station for Ho Chi Minh City (Thu Thiem). This would then continue on the north-south mainline towards Nha Trang.
There has also been talk of a light rail connecting Thu Thiem to the new airport, but there is no official plan on the MAUR website. Whatever is planned, there needs to be a rail link to the central city if this is going to be successful mega airport hub of Southeast Asia. It will make a terrible first impression on visitors if they are dumped miles away in the next province and then have to slog it out in traffic to get to District 1.
In my Ho Chi Minh City Metro Concept Map, I propose building a new metro line that would connect the two airports via the city. This would be similar to what Shanghai has done, where Line 2 connects Shanghai Hongqiao and Shanghai Pudong. Ho Chi Minh City will need more metro lines than is already planned, thus the map is subtitled “if Saigon had a subway like Shanghai”.
You can see this proposal on the map as Line 11.
[Ho Chi Minh City Metro Concept Map. Download the full size here.]
Why is there a going to be a new airport?
Tan Son Nhat (SGN) is the current airport that serves Ho Chi Minh City. It was first built by the French colonial government in the 1930’s. It was then expanded by the Americans during the war, where it became one of the busiest military airbases in the world. At the time the airport was on the northern outskirts of the city centre. Today the city has well and truly engulfed the airport as the urban sprawl continues north of the airport towards Cu Chi District.
It’s quite a spectacle to land at SGN as most big airports in the region have moved outside their city centres. If you are in an A-seat when landing from the east you get a great view of the city while flying over the skinny houses.
At a mere 5.45 sq km, Tan Son Nhat is one of the smallest airports compared to cities the same size. The new airport was meant to be open long before TSN reached its capacity, and also air traffic growth in Vietnam has grown faster than was predicted. There is military land on the northern side of the airport that currently hosts a golf course and resort.
Some of this land is being turned over to the airport to make extra space. The expansion will add another 246 hectares, bring the total size 791 hectares. At 7.91 sq km that is still small compared to other airports in the region, but it will buy some time while the new airport is being built.
The old airport will still operate, so Ho Chi Minh City will have two airports (like Bangkok and Shanghai). It’s not determined what airlines will fly from which airport. It may end up like Bangkok, where the old airport serves low cost airlines. Another suggestion has the new airport serving long haul or beyond-ASEAN flights. That though would be problematic for Vietnam Airlines, who fly long haul flights and then feed passengers into the domestic network. It would have to be like the Bangkok model, or grouped by alliances to allow seamless transfers with codeshared flights.
Are there alternative airport locations?
Vietnam has several airports left over from the American War that have since been turned into civilian airports. One such airport is Cam Ranh (30 km south of Nha Trang), which is now the main airport of the city.
The nearest established airport to Ho Chi Minh City is Bien Hoa Air Base, which is also in Dong Nai province about 25 km from the city centre. That is not an option as it’s still used by the Vietnam People’s Air Force. It also happens to be one of the most polluted sites in Southeast Asia as it was an Agent Orange storage facility. Work to decontaminate the site began in 2019.
Long Thanh compared to other airports
To get an idea of how big this airport will be, this is a comparison of other airports in Vietnam, competing regional hubs in Southeast Asia, and comparisons of cities in China. This includes Beijing (PKX), a new airport that will open later in 2019 that is built for 100 million passengers per year.
|Airport||Size (Sq KM)||Runways||Distance From City|
|Long Thanh||50||4||40 KM|
|Ho Chi Minh City (SGN)||5.45||2||6 KM|
|Hanoi (HAN)||2||45 KM|
|Bangkok (BKK)||32.4||2 / 3rd 2021||40 KM|
|Bangkok (DMK)||2||27 KM|
|Kuala Lumpur (KUL)||100||3||45 KM|
|Singapore (SIN)||13||3||20 KM|
|Hong Kong (HKG)||12.55||2||35 KM|
|Guangzhou (CAN)||3||28 KM|
|Shanghai (PVG)||40||5||30 KM|
|Shanghai (SHA)||26||2||13 KM|
|Beijing (PEK)||23.3||3||32 KM|
|Beijing (PKX)||26.79||4 (7 planned)||46 KM|
Comparison of passenger and aircraft movements
|Airport||Passenger Numbers||Aircraft Movements||Freight (Tonnes)|
|Ho Chi Minh City (SGN)||35,900,000|
|Kuala Lumpur (KUL)||59,988,409||399,827||714,669|
|Hong Kong (HKG)||74,700,000||427,725||5,100,000|
|Beijing (PKX)||72,000,000 (2025 est)||620,000 (2025 est)||2,000,000 (2025 est)|
Long Thanh International Airport Design
In 2016 nine potential design plans were selected from an earlier architectural competition held by the Airports Corporation of Vietnam (ACV). These designs then went on public display in Hanoi, Da Nang, Dong Nai, and Ho Chi Minh City. All nine finalists can be seen here.
From this list three finalists were shortlisted as potential designs:
[Interior of concept design LT-03.]
[Interior of concept design LT-04.]
[Interior of concept design LT-07.]
According to Deputy Minister of Transport Le Dinh Tho, the selected designs will be used in a feasibility report of the project, which will be submitted to the National Assembly in late 2019.
[Video from Heerim Architects & Planners Co.,Ltd..]
Name and airport code
Long Thanh International Airport is named after its location in the district of Long Thanh in Dong Nai province.
There is no 3-letter IATA code yet, so while I was looking for this information I was wondering what it could be. The following codes are already taken:
HCM – Eyl, Somalia.
LTI – Altai, Mongolia.
LTX – Latacunga, Ecuador.
SGX – Songea, Tanzania.
An available code that could be used is LTH.
Another (less likely) option is to switch the codes with Tan Son Nhat (SGN). I put this here as an option as there has been a precedent with this in Bangkok. When Suvarnabhumi Airport opened in 2006 it took the BKK IATA code that was used at the old Bangkok International Airport. The old airport reopened in 2007 after petitioning from low-cost airlines, and it was renamed Don Mueang International Airport (DMK).
This would not be likely as SGN is associated with the Tan Son Nhat location, and it’s not going to close. When the original BKK closed it wasn’t expecting to be reopened. There would also be the matter of finding a new IATA code for Tan Son Nhat, as TSN is already taken by Tianjin in China.
This section is an archive of news updates for the new airport project. It features news, milestones, design concepts, updated timelines, and other controversies and cost blowouts. News articles go back as far as 2004. If you find any other useful news links feel free to send them in.
Minister asks for feasibility study of Long Thanh airport by late May [21/3/19]
Minister of Transport Nguyen Van The has asked the consultancy agencies of Long Thanh international airport to complete the project’s feasibility study by May 30, so the ministry can consider and verify it before submitting to the Government in early June.
Long Thanh airport construction set for 2020 start [14/2/19]
Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung has urged agencies to work together closely to ensure that construction of Long Thanh International Airport in the southern province of Dong Nai will begin next year.
Vietnamese firm seeks main investor status in Long Thanh airport [11/2/19]
The Airports Corporation of Vietnam (ACV) desires to be the main investor in the Long Thanh International Airport.
Work on Long Thanh Airport project to start by end-2020 [1/1/19]
In the first phase, which is slated for completion by 2025, the airport will have one runway and one passenger terminal able to handle 25 million passengers and 1.2 million tons of cargo per year. The project costs an estimated VND336.6 trillion, or US$16.03 billion, with VND114.5 trillion for the first phase.
Site clearance for Long Thành International Airport behind schedule [23/10/18]
The land clearance project, handled by the provincial People’s Committee, has lagged behind schedule due to the People’s Committee’s lack of experience in carrying out feasibility study reports on land clearance.
Vietnam urged to get construction of new mega-airport off the ground [30/3/18]
Experts say the construction cost of Long Thanh Airport could double every five years.
Long Thanh airport project will cost much more if delayed [29/3/18]
Site clearance and funding are among the issues that might cause delays in the big-ticket Long Thanh International Airport project in Dong Nai Province, which will in turn send its cost soaring, heard a seminar in HCMC on March 28.
Long Thanh Airport site clearance costs an estimated US$1 billion [27/10/17]
The costs of site clearance and compensation for Long Thanh Airport are estimated at VND23 trillion (US$1 billion), according to a feasibility report presented to the National Assembly by the Ministry of Transport (MOT).
Dong Nai halts licensing of construction around Long Thanh airport [23/8/17]
The People’s Committee of Dong Nai province has suspended the licensing of construction projects in residential areas around the planned Long Thanh International Airport in an effort to prevent speculation and higher land prices.
Real estate booms around Long Thanh Airport project [2/8/17]
Middlemen and real estate brokers are making false offers for houses and lands around Long Thanh Airport project.
[Image via vietnamnet.vn.]
Design for airport terminal open for public comment [1/12/16]
The display open for public comment will take place at the Viet Nam Art and Culture Exhibition Centre in Ha Noi from November 28 to December 12, and in Da Nang from December 16 to 25. It will be held in Dong Nai from December 28 to January 11, and in HCM City from January 13 to 23.
[Design concept LT-03.]
[Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung (2nd L) reviews the planning map of Long Thanh International Airport.]
Vietnam delays work on largest airport until 2021: report [5/7/16]
“State-owned Airports Corporation of Vietnam (ACV) has confirmed that complex preparatory work will delay the construction of the country’s US$15.8 billion airport near Ho Chi Minh City.”
No-bid contract proposal for Long Thanh airport design draws fire [2/9/15]
Airports Corporation of Vietnam’s (ACV) proposal to award a no-bid feasibility study and design consulting contract for a new international airport in Long Thanh, Dong Nai Province has encountered criticism.
[Image via vietnamnet.vn.]
Architects call for contest to find design for Vietnam’s multibillion-dollar airport [30/8/15]
The request from the Vietnam Association of Architects came after Airports Corporation of Vietnam, owner of the Long Thanh Airport project, revealed its plan to let a yet-to-be-announced consultant work on both the feasibility study and the design.
National Assembly ratifies construction of $16bn airport in southern Vietnam [25/6/15]
The proposed Long Thanh International Airport received the green light from the law-making National Assembly, which passed a resolution for the project during a National Assembly meeting in Hanoi on June 25, 2015.
Vietnam transport ministry gives inconsistent statements about airport creditor [24/10/14]
The transport ministry said that French airport operator ADPM wants to offer a loan of US$2 billion for the proposed airport in Dong Nai, contradicting its earlier statement that another French firm, ADPI, was the potential investor.
[IMage via thanhniennews.com.]
[Map of Long Thanh international Airport in Dong Nai Province.]
Vietnam airport plan returned for clarifications [28/3/14]
The Ministry of Planning and Investment has returned a proposal to build a controversial international airport near Ho Chi Minh City saying it is too vague and lacks certain details.
Over 3,300 households displaced for airport project [21/03/14]
Over 5,300 families will be affected by the project, with 3,300 households to be displaced, over 1,500 tombs removed, and five schools and three government offices relocated. Compensation and resettlement costs estimated at VND20.7 trillion, or US$1 billion.
Spanish firm to build three airports [22/1/10]
Spanish airport builder Garuda Group signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the municipal People’s Committee to undertake the Long Thanh airport feasibility.
The Long Thanh International Airport project approved [26/07/05]
The new airport will have four runways of 4000 metres length and 60 metres width, capable of accommodating the Airbus A380. The airport will be designed to handle 100 million passengers and 5 million tons of cargo per year, and is scheduled to be completed in 2011.
Southern province to see new airport [26/06/04]