Move to use 2 airports gets a mixed reception
Travel operators fear confusion, and traffic problems will hit domestic travel, add to their costs
There has been a mixed reaction to news some domestic flights will shift from Suvarnabhumi Airport back to Bangkok's old airport at Don Muang.
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Travel operators have urged the government to give a more detailed explanation for why the move is being proposed. Some fear city traffic problems will have an impact on domestic travel.
Many local airline operators have welcomed the idea to return some of their domestic flights to the old airport, as recommended recently by the Transport Ministry.
The move will be considered at the Cabinet meeting next Tuesday.
Apichart Sankary, president of Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA), said yesterday the government should explain to the private sector the main reasons for a partial shift back to Don Muang.
"Otherwise, international airlines might withdraw Thailand as an aviation hub from their global network," Apichart said, adding that such reassessments could happen soon. In addition, Apichart said the state agency should clarify how long it will take to repair Suvarnabhumi Airport's cracked taxiways and runway.
Chareon Wangananont, head of the Domestic Travel Association, said re-opening Don Muang airport would cause air-traffic congestion because the two airports were too close to each other.
"Domestic travel is expected to decrease because of this change," Chareon also said.
And using both airports would confuse passengers preparing to travel both to the provinces and overseas. Travel operators and bus services would need more time to pick up their guests.
"Tourists will not be happy with this because its different from the original deal they made in advance, while operators will face more transport costs," he said.
Chareon urged the government to explain the true reason for moving domestic flights back to Don Muang because it was very big issue and the industry has been asking questions about it.
Many airlines including THAI, One-Two-Go, and Bangkok Airways are ready to return to the old airport for certain domestic flights. Others, such as Nok Air, PB Airline and Phuket Airlines, are still considering the move.
However, Thai AirAsia, a Thai budget carrier that is part of the Malaysian low-cost AirAsia Group, said it would retain its services at the new airport.
Tassapon Beileveld, chief executive officer of Thai AirAsia, confirmed it would not be moving to Don Muang Airport.
"We still want to move both domestic and international flights to Don Muang - not just some flights from our network," he said.
Tassapon explained that more than 50 per cent of their passengers were from overseas and would need to use Suvarnabhumi to take connecting flights back to other countries.
Moreover, the airline could not make a separate schedule for using aircraft between domestic and international flights.
"Each aircraft is set to be used for both domestic and international flights - so the airline cannot revise its aircraft usage plan."
Tassapon said the airline would need an additional budget to hire more than 500 staff, equipment and parts if it undertook the move.
Apinan Sumanaseni, president of Thai Airways International Plc (THAI), said the airline would move domestic flights from Suvarnabhumi Airport to Don Muang within 30 days.
But the airline would continue to operate a combination of domestic and international flights at the new airport, such as connecting flights from Phuket, Chiang Mai and Krabi.
THAI domestic services for Phuket, Chiang Mai and Krabi - with non-connecting flights - would be at Don Muang.
Apinan said the company had announced earlier it was ready to move some operations back to Don Muang and hoped that using two airports would not trouble travellers.
"Only a few local travellers out of Phuket, Chiang Mai and Krabi need to use connecting flights so the company doesn't have to worry about this problem," Apinan said.
A source at the budget airline Nok Air, a sister airline of THAI, said the airline was considering using the old airport.
Udom Tantiprasongchai, chief executive officer of One-Two-Go, said the airline would move all their operations back to Don Muang. However, he said the company would have to invest an extra Bt40 million in infrastructure, including offices and ground services, as well as hire more staff.
Udom expected the business would grow by 20 per cent this year - double their original estimate of 10 per cent.