'National pride' must be restored in Suvarnabhumi, says new director

Economy May 14, 2013 00:00

By Achara Deboonme
The Nation

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Suvarnabhumi Airport saw its global ranking slide from 25th in 2012 to 38th this year, prompting the new airport director to say she would scramble the support of all parties in her mission to restore "national pride" in the airport complex.


Rawewan Netrakavesna has tasked herself with urgently introducing new improvements to the airport – with the aim to bring Suvarnabhumi’s Skytrax ranking back to “25” next year. 
Categorised as a three-star airport, Suvarnabhumi offers an “industry average” in the standard of product and service delivery. Her mission will involve in-depth talks with airlines and as well as lobbying for support from government agencies.
“I have a mission to plug the holes of criticism – to make Suvarnabhumi Thailand’s best national asset.” Suvarnabhumi’s financial weak points have already been dealt with, she said, but the airport now faces fierce competition. 
“Her mission is huge, as over-capacity at Suvarnabhumi is quickly leading to a deterioration in services. 
“Everyone must join us and lend a hand,” she said during an exclusive interview.
Drawing on her 34 years of experience at Airports of Thailand (AOT), Rawewan is convinced that she can balance the needs of airlines with the regulatory environment to create a win-win scenario. 
“Passengers are our lifeblood and airlines are carrying passengers to us. Without them, we die. My duty is acting as the intermediary – to pass on airlines’ proposals to the management of AOT and ensure their demands are taken seriously.”
Cooperation from all parties enabled Chiang Mai International Airport – where she served as director from 2010 to last month – to win the Airports Council International award as the world’s fifth-best airport with a passenger capacity of less than 5 million. She attributes the success to the support she received from airlines as well as Chiang Mai Governor ML Panadda Diskul, who made the airport a part of the provincial economic-development scheme. 
During her years there, under the airport’s regular annual budget, the passenger terminal was greatly improved.
At Suvarnabhumi Airport, she has set her sights on adjusting space usage at the passenger terminal. Bank booths and non-aviation offices may be moved to the fourth floor to enlarge the check-in area. 
She would also like a clearer policy towards two Bangkok airports. To ease congestion at Suvarnabhumi and boost traffic at Don Mueang Airport, all chartered flights should be diverted to the latter. In addition, One World – the alliance of American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, Iberia, Finnair and LanChile – is urged to to relocate its operations to Don Mueang Airport. Yet, Rawewan such relocation will require infrastructure for connecting flights and cargo handling. 
Seventy per cent of Thailand’s tourist arrivals use Suvarnabhumi as the gateway to the Kingdom. As tourism grows, the airport – with a maximum capacity of 45 million passengers – last year accommodated 52 million. Thanks to the relocation of AirAsia to Don Mueang late last year, the number of passengers at Suvarnabhumi this year will drop by 4.59 per cent year on year to 50.57 million. However, that number is expected to grow to 57 million in 2015.