Building Altitude: Thailand’s Aerospace Industry Soars Post-Pandemic


The growth in air passenger traffic in Thailand, and the future air traffic growth potential following the Covid pandemic, makes Thailand an attractive destination for commercial aircraft maintenance and manufacturing industries.

Thailand annual airport passenger volume peaked in 2019 at 143 million. The Covid pandemic disrupted both domestic and international passenger volumes. Passenger volume for 2023 has not been released yet, but a continued strong recovery is underway.

Annual Volume of Airport Passengers in Thailand | Source: Statista 2023

Commercial freight and mail services in Thailand has been mostly stable in the range of 1.2 to 1.4 million metric tons per year over the past decade, peaking at 1.64 million metric tons in 2018.

Thailand Commercial Airfreight and Mail Services | Source: Statista 2023

The total number of commercial aircraft movements in Thailand peaked at 893,533 in 2022 and has also been experiencing a strong recovery post-Covid, according to the U.S. International Trade Administration.

Thailand Commercial Aircraft Annual Movements | Source: Statista 2023

Global passenger air traffic has doubled every 15 years since the early 1980’s, and the IATA has recently forecast passenger air traffic average annual growth over the next 20 years at 3.8% globally and 4.1% in Asia Pacific.

By 2034 Asia Pacific will represent 42% of global passenger air traffic. Asia Pacific is already well established as the center of gravity for passenger air traffic, and its market weight will continue to grow, pulling global aerospace companies into its orbit.

Air Passenger Traffic Percentage of Total Flows | Source: MEGATech

Thailand Imports of Aviation Equipment

The Thailand Aerospace market size peaked in 2019 at $2.2 billion USD, per statistics compiled by the Thailand Customs Department. The market contracted to $1.3 billion USD in 2021 during the depths of the Covid pandemic but has been experiencing a strong recovery.

Aerospace Human Resources Development

In 2017 Thailand graduated 33,857 engineering students, 23,873 other science and technology students, and 2,512 students in the fields of aviation and aviation management, according to Thailand’s Office of Higher Education Commission. Seven leading Thai universities offer specific courses in aerospace maintenance.

  • Chulalongkorn University
  • Kasetsart University
  • Rangsit University
  • Rajamangala University of Technology Krungthep
  • Thammasat University
  • King Mongkut’s University of Technology
  • Assumption University

Thailand Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) Demand

Thailand’s share of global passenger traffic is growing. By 2040 the Airports Council International forecasts that Thailand will rise to ninth place in global air passenger traffic.

Global aviation MRO spending in 2018 was $77 billion USD, with Asia Pacific MRO spending being the largest segment at $22 billion USD.

Global MRO spending is projected to increase by 4.0% CAGR through 2028, whereas Asia Pacific MRO spending is forecast to have the highest growth rate at 6.5% CAGR.

Thailand’s MRO services demand was $974 million USD in 2017 and is forecast to increase by 5.4% CAGR to $2.95 billion USD by 2037, with the demand for aircraft in Thailand growing from 314 to 811.

Aerospace components represents the highest share of MRO spending at 41%, with engine maintenance at 28%, line maintenance at 16%, airframe heavy maintenance at 8%, and modifications at 7%.

Thailand’s Industrial Infrastructure

Thailand has long been called the “Detroit of the East” in recognition of its well-developed Automotive manufacturing industry. Thailand continues to excel in attracting industrial FDI due to its competitive wages, world-class logistics infrastructure particularly in the Eastern Economic Corridor, and a diverse range of experienced suppliers of industrial products, parts, equipment, and services.

Thailand is well-positioned to leverage its industrial prowess to support a healthy, dynamic, and successful Aerospace components and services market. 

Authored by

Frank Timmons is a Senior Manager based in Thailand.

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