Transport Minister ACM Sukampol Suwannathat yesterday gave the nod to Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT)’s plan to carry out the expansion of Suvarnabhumi airport including fast-track construction of a new domestic terminal.
The minister yesterday expressed support for the multi-billion-baht expansion to address congestion at Bangkok’s main international airport, which is operating beyond its capacity with crowding expected only to grow worse in the coming years.
At a meeting with AoT executives yesterday, ACM Sukampol agreed that construction of a new domestic terminal capable of handling 20 million passengers a year at an estimated cost of 9.2 billion baht should proceed immediately.
The larger phase-two master plan, estimated at 62 billion baht, which would raise the airport’s capacity to 65 million passengers a year, should also be undertaken in parallel.
“We received good signals from the minister, who wants to see this vital project proceed without further delays,” AoT acting president Niran Teeranartsin said yesterday.
The proposed domestic terminal should tackle the more immediate problem of congestion, as it could become operational in the next five years, while the phase-two expansion should deal with long-haul traffic demand.
Passenger volume through Suvarnabhumi, which was designed to process 45 million passengers a year, is likely to reach 47 million this year, Mr Niran said.
The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) have already advised AoT to implement the expansion of Suvarnabhumi to serve as the country’s sole main air hub.
AoT has moved to tackle the passenger congestion problem by having some of the domestic gates serve international flights after 9pm when domestic flights cease.
At the same time, it is building a new security checkpoint zone, covering an area of 3,000 square metres, to help speed up passenger processing and free up the area of the existing zone for other passenger-service purposes.
Congestion at the airport is about passengers, not flights, as the airport is capable of handling 76 flights per hour while about 56 flights are used, said Mr Niran.
The two expansion projects are part of the overall airport enlargement that would see Suvarnabhumi raise its annual passenger handling capacity to 103 million – 73 million international and 30 million domestic – by 2024 at an estimated cost of 163 billion baht.
The overall expansion blueprint endorsed by the AoT board on July 28 and much in line with ICAO and IATA recommendations also envisages the transfer of domestic flight operations from Don Mueang Airport, which now caters to budget carriers Nok Air and Orient Thai, to Suvarnabhumi by 2016.
The expansion includes the construction of three additional runways from two at present, subsequent enlargement of domestic and international terminals and improvements to parking bays, car parks and other airport infrastructure.