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Suvarnabhumi » Thai Airways loses customers after moving back to Don Muang airport

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

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Thai Airways International‘s decision to move a large part of its domestic services to the old Don Muang airport has resulted in a loss of tens of thousands of passengers who require connecting flights.

The flag carrier could have lost as many as 70,000 foreign travellers, who were transferring from international flights to domestic destinations or travelling from domestic routes to overseas, since Thai Airways started operating through the 93-year-old airport on March 25, 2007.

These travellers have turned to other carriers due to the hassle and long wait in connecting with international flights – all of which run through Suvarnabhumi Airport, a time-consuming 27 km away.

Many of these passengers who may travel on Thai Airways flights from abroad have instead used the domestic services of Bangkok Airways and the budget carrier Thai AirAsia, which have continued to operate all flights through Suvarnabhumi.

Thai Airways operates 31 domestic flights a day through Don Muang, offering more than 8,000 seats a day, while retaining 11 flights a day at the new Bangkok airport.

Thai Airways
is one of the three local airlines that opted to offer domestic flights through the old airport after the military government earlier this year decided, following several policy flip-flops, to reopen the old airport for non-connecting domestic services to reduce immediate congestion instead of making a long term expansion plan in the new Bangkok Airport.

The other two players at Don Muang are Thai Airways’s budget subsidiary Nok Airlines and the local no-frills airline One-Two-Go, both of which did not experience similar problems to Thai Airways. The response from connecting passengers has caught the national carrier’s management off-guard as they believed that domestic flights allocated at Suvarnabhumi should deal with the connection issue for foreign travellers.

The Thai Airways domestic flights retained at Suvarnabhumi, which the airline anticipated to require connections to international destinations, are those from popular tourist spots such as Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phuket and Krabi.

The business loss prompted Thai Airways’s board to discuss the issue at its Monday (April 30, 2007) meeting. No easy solution is seen though some executives said the airline may be compelled to cut some flights at Don Muang and return them to Suvarnabhumi.

Thai Airways may be reluctant revert to Suvarnabhumi because it spearheaded the campaign to reopen the old airport.

Thai Airways has spent about 20 million baht to re-establish its presence over at the old Don Muang Airport.

Industry analysts said Thai Airways‘s loss of connecting passengers reflects a major flaw in operating dual airports within close proximity.

The use of two airports has increased the flight transfer time in Bangkok from between two and three hours to between five and seven hours.

Critics said Thai Airways may have underestimated the impact of passenger connectivity to its business as statistics show that there are always passengers on every Thai Airways domestic flight who need to transfer to international flights.

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