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Sat, January 27, 2007 : Last updated 22:58 pm (Thai local time)

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Home > Business > Use Don Muang during repairs: 2 airlines

Use Don Muang during repairs: 2 airlines

Bangkok Airways and Thai AirAsia have urged the government to move domestic flights back to Don Muang temporarily so that Suvarnabhumi Airport can be partially shut down for repairs to cracked taxiways.

Bangkok Airways CEO Prasert Prasartthong-osoth yesterday said moving domestic flights to Don Muang would allow Airports of Thailand, Suvarnabhumi's operator, to close parts of the new airport for repair without causing problems to air traffic as happened two days ago.

The move would ease the traffic at Suvarnabhumi by 30 per cent, he said. "The old airport can still serve airlines," he added.

His comments followed the air traffic problems on Thursday at Suvarnabhumi when a number of flights were forced to circle around the airport or divert to U-Tapao military airfield, as debris was found on the western runway which was closed for repairs.

Thai Airways International president Apinan Sumaseni said after a board meeting yesterday that if traffic problems continue at Suvarnabhumi, THAI would need to stock more fuel.

Sehapan Chumsai na Ayutthaya, executive vice president for marketing at Nok Air, said that each diversion to U-Tapao cost an airline Bt100,000-Bt200,000 depending on aircraft size.

Transport Minister Theera Haocharoen said on Thursday that the repairs could be carried out without having to move flights to Don Muang.

But Prasert, whose company built airports at Koh Samui, Trat and Sukhothai, suggested that the only way to mend the cracks caused by inferior building materials was to lay new foundations. The reconstruction would take at least 15 to 18 months and cost about Bt50 billion.

He pointed out that since the runways need fixing, the responsible parties might as well fix other problems within the airport too: the severe lack of toilets, lighting, space, conveyor belts and shuttle buses. The malfunctioning online immigration system, which is supposed to link to a global system, has also allowed illegal immigrants to slip in.

"The airport authority should install new facilities, instead of fixing them," he said.

Prasert added that the runway cracks had been caused by the misuse of coarse-grain sand, which failed to absorb water. Expired cement worsened the already fractured surface.

As a result of its premature opening and bargain-quality construction materials, Suvarnabhumi Airport has yet to pass the International Civil Aviation Organisation's safety oversight audit.

"Many airlines have lost faith in the safety of the new airport and have turned to use neighbouring countries' airports. The government should quickly solve this problem before there is a crisis," said Prasert.

Tassapon Bejleveld, CEO of Thai AirAsia, also proposed that the government move all domestic and some international flights back to Don Muang airport to avoid air traffic congestion while repairing the taxiway and runway at Suvarnnabhumi.

Thai AirAsia wants to move all its operations from Suvarnabhumi to Don Muang to reduce its operating costs and make it easier for passengers connecting between its domestic and international flights.

Nok Air and One Two Go have also urged agencies to reopen Don Muang airport as a domestic airport.

Chaisak Angkasuwan, director-general of the Civil Aviation Department, said the department and related bodies - including Airports of Thailand, Aeronautical Radio of Thailand and Thai Airways International - would meet on Monday to reach a conclusion about using Don Muang airport.

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