Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tensions build over the future of Thailand domestic Don Mueang Airport

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Members of the Thai Airways International union have voiced their opposition to plans outlined by Airports of Thailand (AOT) to make the current domestic Don Mueang Airport international. The union, which represents more than half the airline's 26,000 employees, has so far threatened to pursue industrial action if AOT goes ahead with plans.

Aviation industry representatives are in support of the union, arguing that if the airport was to be made international, airlines would have to spend more to operate at both Suvarnabhumi Airport and Don Mueang. Many airlines have also voiced concerns over moving from Suvarnabhumi.

Having once been an international airport, AOT has been pushing for Don Mueang to once again take international flights because Suvarnabhumi Airport has been projected to reach capacity in 2008.

Orient Thai Airlines chief executive, Udom Tantiprasongchai, has said that the government should instead find other alternatives to the capacity issue rather than moving back and forth from each airport.

"It will destroy the whole industry," said Tantiprasongchai.

A third runway and additional terminal has been proposed for Suvarnabhumi, approximately boosting annual capacity to from 45million to 60 million passengers. However, should the extensions go ahead, they would not be completed until 2013, and the renovations would end up costing Bt67 billion and the AOT has an annual cash flow of Bt14 billion.

AOT senior official, Kalaya Phakakrong, has also argued that having Don Mueang operate international flights would allow for more low-cost airlines, increasing Don Mueang passengers from seven million to 10 million a year.

AOT will make its final decision on Don Mueang's status in the next two weeks.

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