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Discount terminal mulled for new airport

BackOct 05, 2006

Airports of Thailand (AOT) will today seek approval from its board of directors to build a low-cost passenger terminal costing Bt1.2 billion at Suvarnabhumi Airport.

The urgent move follows the opening of the new airport last Thursday.

AOT president Chotisak Asapaviriya said the planned facilities would have a total space of 40,000 square metres, with an annual capacity to serve 17 million passengers. It will be especially designed for budget airlines and travellers, with the emphasis on reducing operating and other costs.

"Cost-efficiency is the top priority, because it will not be as beautiful and cosy as the existing terminal. However, service at the new low-cost hub will be fast and convenient."

"Aircraft parking facilities, check-in counters and baggage conveyor belts will all be designed to save costs and time for both airline operators and travellers," said Chotisak.

He said the project, planned prior to the September 28 opening of Suvarnabhumi, is urgent, because the number of passengers using budget carriers operating inside and to Thailand has been growing at a very high rate, 40-50 per cent annually.

This year, the total number of passengers using Suvarnabhumi Airport is projected to top at least 40 million. Of these, 7 million or 8 million use the services of low-cost airlines, which prefer to have their own no-frills terminal.

There are now more than 12 Thai and foreign budget carriers serving the Thai market.

Meanwhile, Chotisak said AOT would launch an intensive programme over the next three months to help all personnel familiarise themselves with Suvarnabhumi Airport's standard procedures.

"This will help ensure the airport functions smoothly in the long run. AOT alone has more than 5,000 employees working at the airport, while Thai Airways has more than 10,000 people. Duty-free operator King Power has 30,000 people working in three shifts," said Chotisak.

In addition, AOT is considering a set of measures to help residents in the Rom Khlao area, which has been severely affected by noise pollution.

"About 240 houses in this area - which is very close to the western runway, where there are frequent landings - face a serious problem from loud noise. I think we'll have to buy 60-70 of these properties, because of the heavy noise pollution. We'll also consider approving a budget for residents to rent temporary housing or hotels while they wait for AOT to buy up their properties," he said.

Nophakhun Limsamarnphun

Source - The Nation Thursday, October 5,  2006