July 19, 2012 00:00
By WATCHARAPONG THONGRUNG
Flight congestion at Suvarnabhumi Airport will ease after the eastern runway returned to service at 11am yesterday for all types of planes except A380 super jumbos.
Anirut Thanomkulbutra, president of Airports of Thailand, said the repaving of the 870-metre northern tarmac of the eastern runway from Sections B6-B3 has been completed.
This was the first phase of the project to resurface the 1,620-metre northern section of the 4,000-metre eastern runway from June 11-August 9.
The eastern runway now has 3,250 metres for use.
The remaining 750 metres from Section B3 to the start of the runway would be ready on July 31, ahead of schedule. The repairing of the runway was only one of the factors that caused flight delays. About 23 per cent of 800 flights that took off and landed at Suvarnabhu-mi a day were held up for more than 15 minutes, he added.
Prajak Sajjasopon, president of the Aeronautical Radio of Thailand, said Suvarnabhumi was coping with peak traffic of 76 flights per hour before the runway was overlaid, but a limit of 68 flights per hour was enforced out of concern for noise pollution.
But during the work on the runway, the airport could handle only 37 flights per hour while 45-50 aircraft were arriving, leading to waits of 15 minutes to one hour and 20 minutes before touching down.
The situation would improve now that the first phase was done. Each flight would not be circling more than 30 minutes, he said.
Meanwhile, Suvarnabhumi Airport has seen its ranking among global airports slide from 13th in 2011 to the 25th in Skytrax’s World’s Best Airport Awards 2012. In the category of airports that accommodate 30 million to 50 million passengers per annum, it is ranked 10th, with Incheon International Airport in Korea holding the first ranking in both categories.
Ranked the world’s second best airport, Changi Airport in Singapore is also expanding its capacity. It welcomed 20.6 million visitors in the first five months of the year and has been the most active in terms of tourist arrivals in Southeast Asia.
Changi may build two new passenger terminals at Changi Airport to cope with increasing demand. Bloomberg reported that the government plans to add 1,000 hectares to Changi, from 1,350 now. The airport started the 2036 Changi steering committee to cope with the traffic demand in the next 50 years, according to a fact sheet from the Ministry of Transport in March.
“Leading air hubs worldwide are upping their game, and are taking a long-term perspective to capacity building,” it said in the fact sheet, citing expansion plans in markets like Hong Kong, South Korea and Dubai.