Calls grow to phase out Don Mueang
The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has joined the ranks of industry groups advising Thailand to further develop Suvarnabhumi Airport to serve as the country’s sole main air hub.
Echoing earlier calls by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the UN agency also suggested that Don Mueang Airport stop serving scheduled flights and become a centre for aviation and commercial development.
The ICAO made its recommendations in a study commissioned by Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT) to resolve the repeated state policy flip-flops over whether Bangkok should be served by one or two international airports.
The ICAO supports AoT’s plan to proceed with expanding Suvarnabhumi to raise its annual handling capacity to 60-65 million passengers from 45 million to serve the single-airport policy.
It advocates building a separate domestic passenger terminal but linked with the international terminal by an automated people mover, as well as building a third runway at Suvarnabhumi.
IATA earlier advocated maintaining the status quo of Don Mueang in the short to medium term to provide spare capacity.
More specifically, it suggested that until 2015, Don Mueang should continue in its current role of providing point-to-point scheduled domestic services until Suvarnabhumi can develop the additional capacity it needs.
It said Suvarnabhumi should become the sole air hub in 2030, when Don Mueang would stop offering scheduled flight service altogether.
IATA also advised AoT to proceed with development of commercial projects at Don Mueang as it terminates scheduled flights.
Previous suggestions for the old airport have included handling charter flights, being turned into an aircraft maintenance and pilot training centre, or even a trade and convention centre.
AoT president Serirat Prasutanond said it would be up to the Transport Ministry to decide whether to follow the advice of the two global aviation groups.
A committee headed by Supoj Saplom, the permanent secretary for Transport, is scheduled to hold its first meeting on April 25 to review the ICAO and IATA studies. It will try to draw up recommendations to be considered by authorities including the cabinet, said Somchai Sawasdeepon, a senior executive vice-president of AoT.
Mr Serirat said AoT was ready to start looking for a management consultant to advise on the Suvarnabhumi expansion, which would cost 62 billion baht.
The expansion plan, approved by the cabinet in August last year, could be modified to accommodate changes that may emerge in line with the recommendations from ICAO and IATA.
The approved plan would lift the passenger handling capacity of the airport to 60 million a year by 2015, years after overcrowding has set in.
However, it does not involve runway construction even though earlier plans called for a domestic passenger terminal and a third runway.
The expansion envisages the construction of a satellite passenger terminal to be located about 800 metres south of the existing one and linked by an underground automated people mover.