Two years after its opening, Suvarnabhumi Airport has seen certain improvements in overall service quality but flaws remain that continue to irk airlines and passengers and need to be corrected.
Congestion at the gleaming airport has eased somewhat but remains a problem. The depressed surface of the runways, taxiways, taxi lanes and aprons need to be smoothened.
Washrooms are still inadequate and the level of cleanliness an issue, while trolleys are in a seriously short supply and many of them in appalling conditions.
Many passengers still complain about long Immigration lines, both at arrivals and departures, with many desks not fully manned. Traffic in front of the passenger terminal remains chaotic.
Though many problems stay on, criticisms are less frequent and less harsh in the past year than in its first year, when several deficiencies including cracked runways made international headlines.
"In all fairness, there are some improvements over the year, but there is still room to take the airport to another level," said Jaiyavat Navaraj, chairman of the Airline Operators Committee (AOC), which represents 68 international airline managers stationed in Bangkok.
On a scale of one to 10, AOC gives seven to the airport for overall service quality this year, up from between 4 and 5 in the preceding year, he quipped.
Mr Jaiyavat credited the improvements to a better attitude and more open mind of AoT officials in charge of airport management, who are more committed to seriously correcting the deficiencies.
"We saw that they began to lend an ear to our requests to correct deficiencies and actually moved to fix the problems," the AOC chairman said yesterday.
That is in sharp contrast with the past, when AoT was operating with a "take-it-or-leave it" bureaucratic mindset, he added.
AoT did respond to AOC's request to get rid of unauthorised tour guides, travel agents and illegal taxi drivers in the terminal.
AoT acting president Serirat Prasutanond yesterday vowed to work harder to raise Suvarnabhumi's airport service quality in order to achieve its aspiration to crack the top 10 in the ACI's annual airport ratings by 2009.
Suvarnabhumi is now somewhere between 20th and 30th in the ranking, which is topped by South Korea's Incheon International Airport.
In another internationally recognised rating, Bangkok's new gateway airport remains a three-star airport, being defined as "fair" in the 2008 Skytrax ranking, compared to the five-star marks (excellent) achieved by Hong Kong, Singapore's Changi and Seoul's Incheon, and four-star (good) for Kuala Lumpur.
Among other improvements at Suvarnabhumi which Mr Serirat detailed yesterday include: providing more and new trolleys; putting in place centralised security screening; adding 755 more surveillance TV cameras to the existing set of 1,074; upholstering the existing cold steel chairs in the terminal; blocking off areas for passengers; and installing tinted film on the passenger terminal's glass roof.
Meanwhile, the airline industry repeated its call for AoT to accommodate a relief package including cuts in land and parking fees to enable airlines to weather the storm triggered by high fuel prices.
AOC said the adoption of this relief package alone should result in 15% cost savings for airlines.
The industry also envisaged speedy implementation of the 78-billion-baht expansion of Suvarnabhumi as being critical to the continued effort to lift its airport service quality.
The so-called Phase 2 expansion, which has recently been approved by the AoT board, would increase the passenger-handling capacity of Suvarnabhumi by 33% to 60 million in the next six years from 45 million currently.
The airport, a pet project of deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and fraught with corruption allegations, handled nearly 80 million passengers and 2.42 million tonnes of cargo in its first two years of operation.