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Suvarnabhumi » Three airlines set to move back to old Bangkok Airport – Don Muang

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

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Only 3 carriers including Thai Airways International are prepared to move their non-connecting domestic operations to Don Muang Airport, raising questions whether the shift would ease crowding at Suvarnabhumi Airport. The other two airlines that are prepared to move are the budget carriers One-Two-Go and Nok Air, whereas Thai AirAsia and Bangkok Airways have opted to remain at the new airport.

Their willingness to move point-to-point domestic flights to the old airport is driven by a desire to relieve passengers and staff of the inconveniences and frustration they are enduring at Suvarnabhumi.

On the passenger side, the problems involve long queues for check-in, long waits for baggage and long walks to boarding gates, while airlines have been subject to flight delays due to poor traffic management and congestion.

THAI, One-Two-Go and Nok Air are reportedly prepared to pay the additional costs in setting up separate operations at Don Muang, which was closed on Sept 28 when Suvarnabhumi opened.

However, Thai AirAsia and Bangkok Airways prefer to stay at Suvarnabhumi due partly to the high costs of operating at two sites. They also do not want to lose connections with their international flights.

Both Nok Air chief executive Patee Sarasin and One-Two-Go vice-chairman Kajit Habanananda said yesterday that passengers’ convenience overshadowed the incremental costs involved in setting up again at Don Muang.

”We are ready to go back to Don Muang on 30 days’ notice,” Mr Patee said, adding that all of Nok Air’s current flights were domestic point-to-point.

Mr Kajit said One-Two-Go was prepared to absorb and costs arising from move and would not pass it on to passengers.

THAI president Apinan Sumanaseni said that the sooner the national carrier could move its non-connecting flights to Don Muang, the better it would be for its passengers, who are mostly Thais.

Both Mr Apinan and Mr Kajit said their airlines could start their flights out of Don Muang on March 15.

Meanwhile, Bangkok Airways said its operations had been built around Suvarnabhumi and that Don Muang was not in its plans. M.L. Nandhika Varavarn, vice-president for corporate communication, said 90% of Bangkok Airways’ passengers were foreigners who required connections with international flights.

Thai AirAsia chief executive Tassapon Bijleveld said that unless Airports of Thailand Plc allowed it to also shift its international services to Don Muang, it would rather remain at Suvarnabhumi. ”We cannot afford to split our operations at two sites. It doesn’t make economic sense.”

Instead, Mr Tassapon urged AOT to speed up consideration of a plan it had outlined earlier to build a special terminal for budget carriers at Suvarnabhumi.

Aviation analysts estimate anywhere from 15% to 30% of the load at Suvarnabhumi could be reduced by reopening Don Muang for commercial flights.

Mr Apinan said THAI could make a ”significant” contribution by moving.

The national carrier operates about 300 domestic flights a week. It wants to offer certain flights on three domestic routes frequented by foreign tourists from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Phuket and Krabi at Suvarnabhumi to facilitate connections.

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