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Suvarnabhumi » Airport of Thailand to push airlines back to Don Muang airport

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

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Airports of Thailand wants to use the abandoned Don Muang airport for international flights to help serve Bangkok passenger traffic and delay the expansion of Suvarnabhumi airport.

The idea has been opposed, however, by the agencies involved, which insist that the Airports of Thailand use only Suvarnabhumi for the sake of transport convenience.

Airports of Thailand adviser Passakorn Suwankanit said Suvarnabhumi airport would reach its full capacity of 45 million passengers a year in 2009 even if Don Muang airport served all domestic flights.

In his opinion, even though Suvarnabhumi could be expanded under its second- and third-phase development, traffic would reach saturation point by 2015.

“The best way out is to use Don Muang as the airport for both domestic and international flights of low-cost airlines.

“This will enable us to delay the expansion of Suvarnabhumi airport for five years,” Mr Passakorn said at a workshop attended by Airports of Thailand executives and airlines’ representatives. He expects the traffic of low-cost airlines to grow by 20-30 per cent annually.

Today, Don Muang airport serves only the domestic flights of Thai Airways International (THAI), One-Two-Go and Nok Air. They voluntarily returned to Don Muang to help relieve congestion at Suvarnabhumi which is operated with one passenger terminal at its northern part and two runways.

Unless more flights are removed to Don Muang airport and Suvarnabhumi airport will need its third and fourth runways and another passenger terminal in the next five years and that would mean that construction work has to begin at once, Mr Passakorn said.

Airports of Thailand vice president Kulya Pakakrong said Airports of Thailand had only 14 billion baht in cash and was about to pay 10 billion baht for extra work done before the opening of Suvarnabhumi airport last year.

Development of the 120 billion baht Suvarnabhumi airport resulted in an annual interest burden of two billion baht to Airports of Thailand. The airport’s expansion would cost Airports of Thailand about 67 billion baht.

If the work had to start right away, Airports of Thailand would have to take out loans for the total amount and that would raise its annual interest burden to about six billion baht, she said.

Kannika Khemawuthanont, deputy director-general of the Civil Aviation Department, insisted that using only Suvarnabhumi airport for Bangkok would be more convenient for passengers on connecting flights and cargo transport and that would enable airlines to save on costs.

She suggested Airports of Thailand improve its management to maximise the use of Suvarnabhumi without having to depend on Don Muang.

She said Airports of Thailand had proven that it was able to do so in the case of Don Muang while the construction of Suvarnabhumi airport was under way.

Efficient management could boost Don Muang‘s actual capacity to 38 million passengers annually compared to the original capacity that stood at 33 million passengers, she said.

Mrs Kannika also said the use of both Don Muang and Suvarnabhumi causes difficulties in air traffic control because the two facilities are too close to each other.

Chokechai Panyayong, asset management director of THAI, agreed that Airports of Thailand could improve its management to increase the actual capacity of the existing facilities at Suvarnabhumi airport without having to use Don Muang.

He said only 30 per cent of the passengers using Suvarnabhumi airport were in transit, while the proportion at Changi airport in Singapore was 70 per cent.

The figure reflected problems at Suvarnabhumi, he said.

With improved management, Airports of Thailand could delay expansion at Suvarnabhumi airport until it was really ready, he said.  (Bkk Post)

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