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Don Mueang costs AoT B70m a month

BackMay 11, 2007

Loss stems from underutilisation

The reopening of Don Mueang airport in March is making a dent in the balance sheet of Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT), with a monthly loss of 70 million baht.

The loss reflects operating costs that far outstrip the income derived from serving a small number of non-connecting flights, at 140 to 160 a day, and daily passenger throughput of around 18,000.

Don Mueang is heavily underutilised, with a projected five million passengers yearly representing only about 12% of its capacity.

Before its closure last year, Don Mueang was handling up to 39 million passengers a year and 700 to 800 flights a day.

In only the first week of the old airport's reopening, from March 25, AoT incurred a loss of 126 million baht, but the deficit declined in April to an estimated 74 million baht for the month, according to sources.

AoT acting president Kulya Pakakrong conceded in an interview that the loss incurred at the 93-year-old airport was quite worrisome but expressed hope that the amount would decline in the future as air traffic builds up.

AoT has calculated annual revenue of 700 million baht from running the airport, 500 million baht of which would come from air services, with the other 200 million from space rental.

It requires 464 people _ 294 AoT full-time staff and 166 long-term employees _ to run the airport which also serves chartered airlines, VIP and government flights. The loss was expected before the government ordered AoT to reopen Don Mueang, which was supposed to have been permanently closed following the startup of Suvarnabhumi last year.

The reopening of Don Mueang came in light of grave concerns that cracks on runways and damaged taxiways as well other construction flaws at Bangkok's new airport could seriously affect air movements and compound congestion that was already taking place there.

The 125-billion-baht airport, fraught with alleged widespread corruption, is already operating near its capacity of 45 million passengers a year.With the loss AoT management appeared to be keen to adopt a number of income-boosting options including allowing some international scheduled flights, now confined to Suvarnabhumi, to operate through Don Mueang, or making it an airport for all domestic flights.

AoT hopes that a study it has just assigned to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to look into the future roles of Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang would confirm its thinking about Don Mueang's expanding scope of operation.

Most airlines frowned at the idea of turning Don Mueang into another international airport for Bangkok, warning it would be impractical, costly and confusing to passengers, especially international travellers.


Source: Bangkokpost by Boonsong Kositchotethana
Friday May 11, 2007