Suvarnabhumi » First flights to Suvarnabhumi Airport ThailandSunday, July 20th, 2008
Thai Airways International (THAI), Bangkok Airways, Thai AirAsia, One-Two-Go Airlines, Nok Air and PB Air will stage 20 flights in and out of the 125-billion-baht facility today (July 29, 2006). The paid-for flight, TG 1881 with 375 passengers, is due to take off from Bangkok International Airport (Don Muang) at 7:45 am for the 24-minute trip.
By becoming a passenger himself, Mr Thaksin will personally see if the airport is up to scratch on arrival and departure.
He is due to fly back from Suvarnabhumi to Don Muang on flight TG 4555 at 11:19 am, according to officials.
Other flights will be taking off and landing throughout the day from Chiang Mai, Lampang, Udon Thani, Nakhon Phanom, Trat, Samui, Hat Yai, Phuket and Narathiwat.
Most of the aircraft will be Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s, capable of carrying 145 to 160 passengers each. The smallest plane is a narrow-bodied Brazilian-made Embraer 145 LR from PB Air, with 50 passengers.
Mr Chotisak said most of the 4,834 seats had already been booked.
All the navigation control systems, air and ground handling support and passenger service facilities such as restaurants and duty-free shops, and city-bound buses were in place, he said.
The Department of Civil Aviation has issued an interim operating licence for Suvarnabhumi in line with the operating and safety standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
The airport’s operation was covered by a policy from Dhipaya Insurance, ”so there should be not any doubts in the public’s minds that the airport is not ready or is unsafe,” Mr Chotisak said.
Charuek Kungwanphanich, the managing director of SET-listed Dhipaya, said the industrial all-risks policy covered a sum insured worth 42 billion baht, and personal liability for third parties worth US$200 million per accident.
Given the high risk and relatively large amount, Mr Charuek said the company had sought reinsurance cover from both local and international companies.
Mr Chotisak’s assurances came as aviation experts questioned the usefulness of today’s flights as a gauge of readiness, since they were limited in number and all domestic.
Suvarnabhumi airport was designed to handle 45 million passengers a year, or about 125,000 a day, and 76 flights per hour.
”It is most likely that you will hear politicians and senior AoT officials come out to declare the test an unqualified success. Of course, it would be because the test is only superficial,” the executive said.
Plagued by construction flaws, delays and corruption allegations, Suvarnabhumi missed its Sept 29, 2005 opening deadline, which was rescheduled to June and then to Sept 28 this year.
Symbolic first test flights involving two Thai Airways aircraft were held on Sept 29 last year.
Aviation groups, such as the International Air Transport Association and the Board of Airline Representatives in Thailand, remain sceptical about the new opening date, warning that a premature inauguration would cause embarassment to the country.
Cathay Pacific chief operating officer Antony Tyler was among those advocating a prudent approach.
Mr Tyler said Thailand should avoid making the same mistake as Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur, which opened their new airports early.
But Mr Chotisak yesterday expressed confidence that a Sept 28 opening was realistic and achievable.
Meanwhile, THAI, Thai AirAsia and Bangkok Airways have initially agreed to make their first international test flights in and out of Suvarnabhumi on Sept 1, according to Mr Chotisak.
The first and the largest airplane to touch down will be a THAI Boeing 747-400 jumbo jet with caretaker prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and cabinet members on board at 8.09 am.
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