PM PLAYS DOWN SUVARNABHUMI DAMAGE
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra Saturday brushed aside concerns about Suvarnabhumi airport’s safety following damage to the western runway.
Ms Yingluck said the problem was unlikely to shake travellers’ confidence while stressing that the damage had already been fixed.
She said the runway defect was caused by normal wear and tear. Heavy use of the western runway following the closure of the eastern one could have also contributed to the damage.
“Actually it is normal because Suvarnabhumi airport has been in use for several years. The number of flights has exceeded expectations, shortening its use,” she said.
She said the damage would not compromise safety standards and she had asked concerned officials to look into the issue and maintain standards.
According to Suvarnabhumi management, the airport has handled about 1.5 million flights since it opened in September 2006.
However, critics have called into question whether the construction of the airfield met required standards.
Airports of Thailand (AoT) president Aniruth Thanomkulbut said a surface area covering 3,600 sq cm and five centimetres deep at the northern part of the western runway peeled off at about 8pm on Thursday. It was not a structural problem.
The western runway was quickly closed for repairs, delaying a number of flights and diverting 11 others.
Piyaman Techapaiboon, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand, called Saturday for AoT to speed up its plan to construct the third runway.
“The closure of the airport for repairs has affected travel and requires the AoT to consider building the third runway,” she said,
The third runway is scheduled to be completed in 2017.
She urged the AoT to begin a feasibility study into a fourth runway to accommodate a larger number of flights.
Transferring some flights to Don Mueang airport is not the way to address the problem in the long run, she said.
According to Mrs Piyaman, the runway damage might also affect consumer confidence because travel agencies would not be able to guarantee travel convenience.
Sisdivachr Cheewarattanporn, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, stressed the need to improve and further open up Don Mueang airport.
“It should serve as an alternate international airport when Suvarnabhumi gets crowded,” he said.