There is nothing cooler than coming into land at the massive, sprawling former US military base to set the mood for your Vietnam adventure and Chu Lai International Airport (VCL) ticks all the boxes. The airport is a great way to reach two of Vietnam’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the golden beaches of Tam Ky and the picturesque Cham Islands.
The airport is also a great alternative for those looking to fly to the nearby city of Da Nang for a cheaper fare.
History of VCL
Originally built in 1965 as a staging post to attack the north with vast flying B-52 bombers, the 30km squared Chu Lai Air Base was the biggest concrete construction in Vietnam, with a runway over 3,000 meters long (just shy of 10,000 feet). However, when the American forces pulled out of the country the airfield was abandoned and was one of the first casualties of the inevitable north invasion.
It wasn’t until 2004 when the Vietnam government realized that the best opportunity for an airport in the region was the existing airfield. They invested $700 million USD into the airfield, building a modern passenger terminal, 25 gates, and a new air-traffic control system for modern aircraft. The airport officially started operating as a commercial passenger international airport in 2005.
Since then the airport has seen millions of passengers and in 2015 was averaging 500,000 passengers a year. The Vietnam government has big plans for the airport, and is currently working on four major improvement projects. By 2025 they want the airport to have a future capacity of five million passengers a year, two runways over 3,800 meters long, a vast cargo hub to transport 5 million tons of cargo and open a pilot training school with the New Zealand government to train up to 300 new pilots a year.
But what does all of this mean for you, the normal passenger passing through the airport?
Airlines at VCL
Well for one, the airport has yet to receive all these future international flights and only has four different domestic airlines flying into the airport. So far:
- Bamboo Airways flies in from Hanoi,
- Jetstar Pacific flies from Ho Chi Minh City,
- Vietjet and Vietnam Airlines from both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
But what it lacks in flights it makes up for in a good airport experience and an alternative (and sometimes cheaper way) to get to Da Nang.
Terminal at VCL
The airport terminal is new, with all the modern conveniences that you would normally find. There is air conditioning throughout, it’s clean and thanks to its small number of flights and large capacity, plenty of room. You won’t be crushed in crowds like Hanoi Airport or others, with very little queuing through security and immigration. There are few facilities and limited food options, but as it is so quick to reach your gate you really have little excuse to spend a lot of time here.
Transportation at VCL
To get to and from the airport, there are several options. There is a free shuttle bus to both Quang Ngai (40km away) and Tam Ky city (33km away), however, you will need to check what time it operates upon arrival as the departure times frequently change depending on the season. Metered taxis can be hired for around 600,000-800,000 Dong (~$25-35 USD) to Tam Ky (45 minutes away) and Quang Ngai (An hour drive). Be sure to insist on the meter before riding.
Address: Tam Nghĩa, Núi Thành District, Quang Nam Province
Province: Quang Nam Province
Phone: 0235 3535 516
Serves: Tam Kỳ