Don Muang to be 2nd international airport
THAI to decide whether to return to old airport for some overseas routes, Air Asia agrees to move
Thai Airways Inter-national (THAI) is considering moving some international flights back to Don Muang, while Thai AirAsia will operate all 80 daily flights out of there, following the Cabinet's surprise decision yesterday to reopen the old airport for both domestic and international flights.
Nok Air and One-Two-Go also said they would base their flights at the old airport.
The decision to turn Don Muang into Bangkok's second international airport came as a major surprise to THAI.
THAI president Apinan Sumanaseni yesterday said the airline needed to reassess its operating plan.
"We're reviewing the situation, as we need to know how to deploy our fleet with two airports
in operation," said Apinan, adding that some international flights should return to Don Muang.
The new plan should be completed within the first quarter.
Earlier, after Airports of Thailand (AOT), operator of both the old and the new airports, proposed using Don Muang only for non-transit domestic flights, THAI announced its plan to move most of its domestic flights to Don Muang, except those from Chiang Mai, Phuket and Krabi, which carry a large number of connecting passengers.
The decision delighted Thai AirAsia. CEO Tassapon Bijleveld said the budget airline was ready to move all 80 flights - domestic and international - from Suvarnabhu-mi Airport to Don Muang.
"We will soon visit Don Muang to check equipment and know the exact location of our base," Tassapon said.
Thai AirAsia was the first airline to propose reopening the old airport, citing the much higher operating costs at Suvarnabhumi, which required higher fees to cover its Bt150-billion cost.
The proposal was made following rumours in the Thaksin era that Don Muang would be reserved as the operating base of Thai AirAsia, which is partially owned by Shin Corp, the flagship business of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Thai AirAsia earlier opposed the reopening of Don Muang for only domestic flights, citing that it would cause trouble for connecting flights.
The Cabinet yesterday resolved to reopen Don Muang, which had been used for 91 years before the opening of Suvarnabhumi Airport last September 28 for both domestic and international flights. The decision came amid growing problems at the scandal-ridden new airport.
Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont attributed the decision to the growing number of
passengers that Suvarnabhumi alone could not serve. He also reportedly said Don Muang's reopening would benefit the country, because the old airport was still in good condition, and runway repairs at Suvarnabhumi could be carried out smoothly.
"I consulted the transport minister [Theera Haocharoen], and he said there should be no problem, because some cities abroad also have two international airports," he said.
He also said that once Don Muang reopened, AOT's plan to build a new passenger building and two more runways at Suvarnabhumi would be shelved, in order to save the national budget. AOT earlier estimated it would need additional Bt16 billion for the project.
Among major world cities that operate more than one international airport are New York, Berlin, London, Tokyo, Milan, Rome and Paris.
Surayud also reportedly told the Cabinet that Suvarnabhumi's problems should be addressed by a national committee, to be established later. The committee would be tasked with investigating the problems, even after the present government ends its term.
"The chairman and board members will be neutral people who will win public recognition. I will consult with the transport minister on the proper individuals," he reportedly told the Cabinet.
Currently, there are a variety of committees looking into the scandals, which have already been highly publicised and could ruin the country's image among travellers.
Meanwhile, the Thai News Agency reported that the Airport Operations Committee (AOC), which represents more than 65 airlines, yesterday voiced opposition to the use of dual airports for Bangkok and warned that doing so would sow confusion among passengers.
AOC chairwoman Sopin Daengthes said due to a lack of transport links between the two airports, passengers would have difficulty getting from one to the other.
She said a study by the International Air Transport Association showed a single airport would be more efficient in terms of management.