By Chutima Sidasathian and Alan Morison
CONCERN is growing both inside and outside Airports of Thailand over delays to the commencement of the 5.7 billion baht expansion plan for Phuket International Airport.
Phuket Governor Tri Augkaradacha said today that he had been told construction would begin on the expansion in August.
However, the tendering process has been disrupted and now changes at the top at AoT are unlikely to speed the process.
Phuket MP Tossaporn Tepabutr believes traffic through the airport could increase three times over in the space of 10 years. He told Phuketwan today that the airport’s new maximum will be 15 million arrivals and departures a year.
While large amounts of money are being spent alleviating problems experienced by tourists in arriving and departing through Immigration Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport, passengers are complaining in greater numbers about the time it takes to arrive from flights through Immigration or depart Phuket.
Phuket airport is struggling to cope as Phuket’s continuing boom in tourist numbers forced the airport management to exceeds previous maximum levels using outdated facilities.
Passengers sometimes have to endure four queues and those on short trips to close destinations can spend more time in the airport than on the flight.
The large amount charged by AoT for taxi parking at the airport is also considered to be a contributing factor to unnecessarily high taxi prices on the island, Phuket Provincial Administration Organisation cheif executive Paiboon Upatising recently told Phuket envoys when they met with Phuket’s Governor.
That the expansion has been left until 2011 comes as a surprise considering that Phuket generated more income last year than any other airport in Thailand apart from Suvarnabhumi.
Phuket International Airport Acting Director Wing Commander Passakorn Surapipit yesterday presented to shareholders in Bangkok the 5.7 billion baht development and expansion plan that will increase passenger potential for Phuket from the record seven million in 2010 to 12.5 million.
One shareholder suggested that transport to other parts of the island should be improved. She added that Thai tourists often complained about the high cost of rental car and taxi services, and a bus network was essential.
The meeting was told that Phuket caters for 537 flights a week from 44 airlines, most of them scheduled services.
An announcement on the start of the expansion, already delayed by the tendering process, may he held off because of a change at the top. Airports of Thailand president Serirat Prasutanand has said that he wishes to leave early, on March 9 instead of March 31.
Appointment of his successor is likely to be delayed until the AoT board meets on March 24.