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AOT 'wants Don Muang reopened'

BackDec 12, 2006

Budget airlines could use facilities at airport

A study by Airports of Thailand (AoT) favours an immediate reopening of Don Muang airport to serve only non-connecting flights of low-cost airlines, in order to fully use the airport's facilities and save costs for the agency, according to sources familiar with the report.

The study for the AoT management concludes that Don Muang airport could serve point-to-point flights but adds that the return by airlines to the old airport should be voluntary.

Returning could delay the saturation and expansion of Suvarnabhumi airport, it adds.

The scheme could postpone the second-stage development of Suvarnabhumi from next year to 2010 and defer the third-stage expansion plan for seven years from 2008 to 2015. The structural expansion in both stages is expected to cost AoT more than 100 billion baht.

Don Muang now serves only chartered flights. All regular services were transferred to the new airport on Sept 28.

Suvarnabhumi now has two runways and it is already preparing for a third one.

But the study says the re-opening of Don Muang for regular flights could delay the completion of Suvarnabhumi's fourth runway from 2012 to 2018 and put off the saturation of Suvarnabhumi from 2024 to 2037. The postponed saturation will mean less congestion at the new airport, which was built to serve 45 million passengers a year in the first phase.

Don Muang accommodated up to 39 million a year before the operation was moved to Suvarnabhumi.

Facing higher operation costs at Suvarnabhumi, no-frills operators have pushed for the return of their airlines to Don Muang.

But the government's position now is to maintain the single airport for Bangkok. Both parties will hold talks next month.

The study says the use of Don Muang for regular flights will help AoT fully use its existing assets.

Besides, the company will not need to build a separate terminal for low-cost airlines at Suvarnabhumi, estimated at 1.4 billion baht, according to the report.

The use of Don Muang again should let AoT post an annual net profit of 4.8 billion baht between next year and 2020, according to the sources. Its liquidity problem will be minimised and it should have to borrow only 131 billion baht to maintain its cash flow during that period.

If AoT builds the separate terminal for low-cost airlines at Suvarnabhumi, it should have an annual net profit of 3.2 billion baht and need to borrow 188 billion baht to maintain its cash flow during the same period.

The immediate re-use of Don Muang airport will also reduce AoT's work to rehabilitate the old airport when Suvarnabhumi airport is saturated.

Deputy Transport Minister Sansern Wongcha-um said the result of the study would have to undergo careful consideration in order to prevent adverse impacts in the long run.

The Transport Ministry will hire a university to study it, he said, adding that he would pick the option that would maximise public interest.


Source: Bangkok Post Tuesday December 12, 2006