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DAC looking for private operator

The Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) has put in a big effort to maximise the commercial benefits of its 28 provincial airports and wants a state or a private company to operate them in preparation for the introduction of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) next year.

Seree Chitsopa, DCA deputy director-general for airports, said yesterday that the agency did not have the professional expertise to operate the airports and would rather stick to its key role as regulator.

He said it was essential to have a professional company run the airports so that they become more commercially viable, because the use of secondary airports after 2015 would be on the rise thanks to the rising flow of travellers.

He was speaking after a seminar where he showed a preliminary report on the potential aspects of the 28 airports that was carried out by TransConsult Co.

The DCA hired the consultant last March so that it received updated information to help define a development plan and maximise the benefits of its provincial airports.

TransConsult's final report is scheduled to be completed in September, with the DCA using the findings to help manage the airports properly and more commercially.

Previously, Airports of Thailand (AOT) was approached to manage the profitable Krabi International Airport. But the DCA rejected this idea and told AOT that it should run all the airports, even the unprofitable ones.

At present, the DCA's major money-spinning airports are Krabi, Udon Thani, Surat Thani, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Ubon Ratchathani, Khon Kaen and Trang.

The poor-performing ones include Pattani, Nakhon Ratchasima, Phrae and Phetchabun.

"The region will be connected together via the AEC scheme, and that means that the DCA will have to strengthen its role to survive in the fast-changing aviation environment," Seree said.

New budget airlines will be launched this year, as existing budget carriers spread their wings to the provinces. VietJetAir is one of the newest carriers to fly to Thailand, while Thai Lion Air is expanding its flights to the provinces.

Seree said his agency would keep ahead of its investment plan for new projects and improve airport capacities.

The DCA is set to build its 29th airport, at Betong, Yala, for Bt1.7 billion. Funding for the airport, which will include a passenger terminal, will be contained the 2015 annual budget. It is on 920 rai (147 hectares) and its construction is slated to start next year and be completed in 2018.

The airport will be big enough to service small jets, catering to rising demand from Malaysia.

In addition, improvements will be made to the airports at Nakhon Si Thammarat and Mae Sot, Tak.

At Nakhon Si Thammarat, Bt225 million will be spent on its airport apron to increase it from three to six aircraft and a bigger passenger terminal will be built. Currently, the airport has the capacity to handle a Boeing 737 as more tourists flock to the province, regarded as a key centre of the South.

In Mae Sot, about Bt200 million will be spent on expanding the runway from 1,600 to 2,100 metres so it can service bigger aircraft. A new terminal will be built as well.

Mae Sot is getting more famous as a border district connecting to cities in Myanmar, driving trade and investment volume between the two countries.

Last year, DCA earned Bt513 million in total sales revenue. Of the total, Bt467 million came from involved aviation which included departure fees and Bt46 million from nonaviation services. Compared to AoT, it earned Bt38.81 billion. Of the total, Bt18.428 billion came from aviation services and the remaining Bt12.044 billion from non aviation.


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