Thaksin says Suvarnabhumi will open no later than September
In spite of some remaining construction problems, caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra insists Bangkok's new Suvarnabhumi Airport will open for commercial service before October.
Thaksin, right, meets with members of the airport developement board.
"There shouldn't be any problem [with opening the airport by late September]," he said while inspecting the airport's readiness yesterday. Thaksin was speaking to reporters after meeting with the Suvarnabhumi Airport Development Board.
He said that in spite of problems such as a long crack in the flooring of the passenger terminal, the government would push ahead to open the new airport before this year's October high season. "The problems are minor. We can use flexible materials to fix them," he said.
Thaksin considers the new airport a high priority, as he hopes it will attract much-needed foreign currency.
The visit to Suvarnabhumi Airport was just one item on Thaksin's agenda after returning to work this week from a six-week hiatus.
Caretaker Transport Minister Pongsak Ruktapongpisal admitted that some of the work had been delayed, but said officials had been instructed to accelerate construction in order to ensure that the airport opens soon.
Pongsak said his ministry would try to open it before October, a month when large numbers of tourists usually travel to the Kingdom.
At that time, flight numbers will increase significantly, making it difficult to manage the new airport. It will take some time for the airport to be able to accommodate such large numbers of passengers.
Pongsak said the start of commercial service would coincide with a "soft opening" ceremony for the transfer of flight operations from Don Muang Airport to Suvarnabhumi. The new airport's grand opening could be held officially once the high season ends.
But quite a few areas of the airport are not yet ready to become operational. For instance, there is the large crack running along the tiles inside the passenger terminal. Plus the interior decoration at the immigration counters and the conveyor belts are not finished.
The opening has been delayed once already, having originally been scheduled for next month.
Pongsak expressed optimism that test runs could begin in August at Suvarnabhumi.
First conceived in 1960, the airport is situated at Nong Ngu Hao, or "Cobra Swamp". The area used to be covered in fish-ponds, because of the low terrain.
The new airport was designed to accommodate up to 45 million passengers a year and will take over much of the traffic from Don Muang Airport.