High fees, monopoly concerns prompt study
The Transport Ministry is mulling a plan to build a new state-run airport on Koh Samui as an alternative to the existing privately-run facility amid complaints of high airport fees.
The move is also intended to end the monopoly on the airport service on the island.
Transport Minister Jarupong Ruangsuwan had told the board of Airports of Thailand to study investment viability and find locations to build a second airport on Koh Samui, in Surat Thani.
He said the existing Samui airport, which is operated by Bangkok Airways, is not ready for expansion to cope with the increasing demand for flights.
“There have been complaints of high airport fees that need to be resolved,” the minister said.
The current airport opened for service on March 1, 1989. Located on 509 rai, the airport sits close to residential areas, making expansion nearly impossible. The airport also has to limit the number of flights to ease noise pollution created by aircraft taking off and landing.
Mr Jarupong said the new airport construction plan is aimed at promoting price competition and ending the monopoly on the airport service in the resort island. Local tourism will also be given an added boost.
The ministry may consider entering talks with Bangkok Airways in an attempt to solve the problem and building a new airport is a way to gain bargaining leverage, he said.
He said the number of tourists to Samui is increasing, however airport facilities are currently too limited to handle the increasing traffic.
Mr Jarupong stressed the need for concerned agencies to ensure the construction project is worthy of investment and to take into account any possible impacts on the environment.
Pol Maj Gen Peeraphan Premputi, who sits on the AoT board, said that management had been told to study details of the plan and to find a suitable location for the new airport.
A Transport Ministry source said that under a cabinet resolution in 2003, the ministry was assigned to solve the air travel problem on Samui following complaints of high airport fees and a monopoly of the service.
The ministry commissioned Kasetsart University to conduct a feasibility study on the project and hired ABEN Engineering Consultants Co to carry out an engineering and environmental impact assessment (EIA) study.
The study by Kasetsart University concluded that the project was financially viable and worthy of investment with the increasing amount of air traffic projected for Samui.
According to the study, construction of the new airport would cost about 2 billion baht and the proposed location would cover about 1,490 rai in tambon Na Muang on Koh Samui, about 14km away from the current airport. The EIA study also showed there would be no problems in terms of engineering requirements while any impacts on the environment would be limited and could be prevented.
A source at the Department of Civil Aviation said the EIA study showed there were both supporters and opponents of the project.
Those in favour said the new airport would provide an alternative for tourists while preventing a monopoly on the air travel service.
It would also help boost Samui’s capability to handle more tourists and improve the local economy, the source said, citing the results of the study.
Opponents of the project, however, expressed concern that temples and communities in the vicinity of the new airport would suffer from noise pollution and vibrations from aircraft.
They also argued that Koh Samui, at around 143,000 rai, is not suitable for the construction of a second airport due to limited space.