AOT chief sees bigger role for Don Mueang
The new chief executive of Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT) wants to turn Don Mueang into Bangkok's secondary airport to Suvarnabhumi in a move that further clouds state policy on airport utilisation.
At the same time, AoT would seek to proceed immediately with the expansion of Suvarnabhumi, building an additional terminal and a third runway that would need five years to complete.
Air Marshal Chana U-sathaporn, who assumed the presidency of the airport monopoly two weeks ago, said he would make the proposals to the Transport Ministry within this month so that it can find a definitive solution, which has eluded AoT and the government to date.
However, he also told reporters that he favoured a single airport, meaning Suvarnabhumi, but would like to see Don Mueang playing a more active role.
The 93-year-old Don Mueang was decommissioned when Suvarnabhumi opened in September last year but was reopened in March strictly for non-connecting domestic flights in order to ease pressure on the new airport.
Any carriers, including those operating international routes, that want to operate through Don Mueang would be welcome to do so on a voluntary basis, AM Chana said.
AoT, he added, might offer some incentives such as lower terminal rental charges and overnight aircraft parking fees, though not landing charges.
He said domestic, low-cost carriers including those with international operations, and those operating smaller aircraft (about 145 seats) should use Don Mueang in order to alleviate overcrowding at Suvarnabhumi and help AoT to reduce the heavy financial costs of running Don Mueang.
Keeping Don Mueang, even with just one of the three terminals actually in use, is costing AoT more than one billion baht a month. ''I want to better utilise this infrastructure,'' he said.
The airline industry has vigorously opposed the plan to operate two airports.
Industry groups have said that if Bangkok wanted to be a strong regional aviation hub, the long-term goal should still be to have a single airport in operation. Two airports would split passengers, airlines and AoT's resources and lead to inconvenience for passengers and reduced cost-efficiency.
Apinan Sumanaseni, the president of Thai Airways International, yesterday reaffirmed the flag carrier's stance not to shift any more flights to Don Mueang than what it was asked to do last March.
However, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) suggested earlier that if AoT was compelled to have more traffic through Don Mueang, airlines should be free to decide whether to operate from there.
At the same time, IATA said, the expansion of Suvarnabhumi should proceed immediately.
Suvarnabhumi is already close to its capacity of 45 million passengers a year, handling nearly 42 million passengers, 267,555 take-offs and landings, and 1.18 million tonnes of cargo in the year to Sept 30.
Don Mueang dealt with 3.18 million passengers and 39,689 aircraft movements from March to September.
Source: Bangkok Post by Boonsong Kositchotethana
Saturday November 17, 2007