Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has been asked by the Transport Ministry to set up a committee, to be chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, to decide whether the North Expansion of Suvarnabhumi international airport requires the construction of a new passenger terminal.
The move to involve the prime minister came after the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB), the government’s economic think-thank, rejected the second terminal project as proposed by Airports of Thailand Public Company (AOT).
The NESDB, in its letter to AOT dated October 29th, confirms its earlier decision to reject the project on the grounds that a new terminal will cost more than expanding the existing one, which can accommodate an additional 30 million passengers annually.
Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob does, however, support the need to build a second terminal, claiming that, if there is theaddition of a third runway, the existing terminal will not be able to cope with the increased passenger load, estimated at 60 million a year.
The expansion of runway capacity, plus the building of an aircraft apron, must be implemented along with the building of a new terminal, to cope with increased passengers in the future, said the minister.
In rejecting the AOT’s project, the NESDB claimed that the AOT may face liquidity problems from 2022 to 2024 if it goes ahead with the construction because, during the same period, AOT will also need funding for the development of other airports, such as Don Mueang and Chiang Mai.
The NESDB also cited forecasts, by the ICAO and IATA, predicting that air passenger loads worldwide will drop by between 50 and 60% this year, compared to last year, and will return to the 2019 level in the next four years.
The think-tank went on to say that there is still high uncertainty over the COVID pandemic and, hence, AOT must exercise prudence in its investments.