Monday, November 30, 2009

VietJet Air becomes operational in May 2010

The VietJet Air Joint Stock Company has announced its development plans for 2010, which include introducing flights that offer only economy seats and doing away with first ad business class.

The private airline is scheduled to run new flights from May 2010. In the first one or two years, the airline will focus on serving domestic passengers, especially from Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang.

In the following years, VietJet Air will open other routes to destinations in the South East Asian region, including Bangkok (Thailand), Singapore, Malaysia and in the North East Asian region such as Hong Kong, China, the Republic of Korea and Japan.

Thai airport movements climb from August bottom

Air traffic through Thailand's six main airports continued to recover last month after bottoming out in August.

Combined passenger throughput in October rose by 13.88% year-on-year to 4.82 million, while flight numbers grew by 5.48% to 30,975, according to statistics compiled by Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT).

Cargo volume in October increased for the first time this year, growing by 1.38% to 108,605 tonnes.

While the growth rates look impressive on the surface, analysts said October's figures were compared with a low base last year when air traffic was affected by political unrest and the aftermath of last August's blockades of southern airports, including Phuket, by anti-government protesters from the People's Alliance for Democracy.

The October figures showed traffic through Thai airports is returning thanks largely to greater political stability and the bottoming-out of the global recession.

But passenger traffic, flight movements and cargo throughput in the first 10 months of 2009 were still down on the previous year.

For January to October, passenger throughput fell by 7.92% year-on-year to 43.46 million, flights were down by 7.32% to 296,226 and cargo plunged by 19.61% to 906,923 tonnes.

Traffic will continue to grow for the rest of the year, mostly driven by the arrival of the peak tourism season, hitting the year-end target of 53 million passengers, down from 54.4 million last year, an analyst said.

AoT president Serirat Prasutanond said matching last year's traffic volume will be difficult given the significant impact from the seizure of Bangkok's two airports late last year.

The PAD laid siege to Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports from Nov 25 to Dec 4, 2008, to force the Somchai Wongsawat administration out of office.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thai carrier to make quick improvements, sees recovery soon

November 29, 2009, 12:40pm
A picture made available on November 27, 2009 shows a Thai Airways (THAI) catering truck in front of a THAI aircraft at Suvarnabhumi International Airport, in Bangkok, Thailand, October 2, 2009.(EPA)
A picture made available on November 27, 2009 shows a Thai Airways (THAI) catering truck in front of a THAI aircraft at Suvarnabhumi International Airport, in Bangkok, Thailand, October 2, 2009.(EPA)

BANGKOK (dpa) – Thai Airways International (THAI) is recovering well from the global slump in passenger numbers but needs an extraordinary rejuvenation to regain its ''rightful'' place as one of Asia's top airlines, the national carrier's president said.

''We have seen the bottom - 2010 and 2011 should be better, even in the face of very intense competition,'' THAI president Piyasvasti Amranand said.

Piyasvasti noted that although passenger numbers were picking up the yield was being kept ''very low'' because so many airlines were scrabbling for business, particularly low-cost airlines and carriers flying out of the Middle East.

THAI suffered a loss of 21.3 billion baht ($647.8 million) last year, blamed partly on high oil prices, but ''might'' break even this year, he said. Management of THAI, which is 51 percent government-owned, has been subject to political influence in the past and many experts say it remains sclerotic and faction-ridden.

''We need to get rid of corruption in Thai Airways. We need to get rid of nepotism in Thai Airways,'' Piyasvasti said. But after five months in the job he also said ''staff at Thai Airways are surprisingly good. Much better than I expected.''

However, he also said that the corporate culture inside the airline was ''more bureaucratic than the civil service'' even though the carrier has enjoyed managerial autonomy. ''They did it to themselves,'' he said.

Quick gains in efficiency are being made by making 11 billion baht in operational cost cuts, with aircrew staying, for example, in cheaper hotels and by giving golden handshakes to highly-paid but ''tired'' older cabin crew.

The airline also plans to cut many non-strategic loss-making routes or give them to Nok Air, the emerging low-cost carrier 40 percent owned by THAI.

''We have a smaller fleet than Singapore Airlines but we fly to more destinations,'' Piyasvasti noted. THAI's fleet was also unacceptably old with an average aeroplane age of 11.7 years compared to Singapore Airlines' average of six years.

The first delivery of eight Airbus A330s is due in January and deliveries of the six Airbus A380 superjumbos is to start in 2012.

Other aircraft can be leased, he added.

Aircraft purchases are to be complemented by a vigorous program of cabin refurbishment to combat the widespread impression that THAI's service is inferior to its major rivals. ''Within two years our product will be of high quality and consistency,'' he said.

As an example of ''quick gains'' that can be made, Piyasvasti cited the widespread impression that rival airlines like Singapore and Qantas offer better meals – even when flying out of Bangkok these meals are made in Thai Airways kitchens. ''This sort of thing can't be allowed to go on,'' he said.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Airasia Launches flight Medan-Phuket

Good news for low budget travelers and for Phuket lovers especially in Indonesia. Now Airasia Airlines, as the World’s Best Low Cost Airline is delighted to launch its two newest routes, Jakarta and Medan direct to Phuket, daily, in addition to its popular Jakarta–Bangkok and Bali-Bangkok routes.


These new routes will be operated from its newly opened hub, Phuket International Airport in
Thailand. This is a great deal. Now every travellers from Jakarta and Medan is easier to visit Phuket.

Phuket, is the biggest island in Thailand, is long knowed for its exotic beach :
Patong Beach. Now visiting Patong beach is not an expensive dream anymore.

Airasia give the Special fares start from THB 1,499 one-way for Jakarta-Phuket (249.000 in Indonesia Rupiah) and THB 999 one-way for Medan-Phuket (99.000 in Indonesia Rupiah), for travel from 3 December 2009-30 April 2010.

Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, is a fast-growing tourist and commercial center, while Medan is the commercial center of Western Indonesia. With a history going back to 1590, Medan is one of the original Straits Settlements, giving it the same kind of Chinese cultural influence as is seen in Melaka, Singapore, Penang and Phuket.


Special notes to book with Airasia flight to Phuket :

- Booking Period: 4 Nov 2009 – 9 Nov 2009, 25 Nov 2009 - 27 Nov 2009
- Travel Period: 3 Dec 2009 – 30 Apr 2010
- Travel Notes: Advance booking required, fares not available during embargo period

Phuket Island
An exotic beach in Phuket


Thai Airasia Airbus A320
Thai Airasia Airbus A320

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Thai official confirms Hun Sen's daughter to take over CATS

BANGKOK, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's daughter plans to hold shares in Cambodia Traffic Air Services (CATS) after the Cambodian government has temporarily taken over management of the firm, a Thai senior official confirmed Saturday.

Panitan Wattanayakorn, Thai acting government spokesman confirmed the news report that Hun Sen's daughter is planning to hold shares in CATS.

Having controlled CATS by the Cambodia government occurs after Siwarak Chothipong, a 31-year-old-Thai man, who worked as engineer at CATS, has been arrested from Nov. 11, according to the arrest warrant of prosecutor of Phnom Penh Municipality Court.

Cambodia has charged Siwarak of having had confidential information affecting Cambodia's national security, a senior Thai official said Wednesday.

According to a news report by the Khmer language newspaper Rasmei Kampuchea, Siwarak spied through copying the letters of flights of former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in Cambodia and Hun Sen from CATS which has duties to control all flights in country and he sent those reports to Thailand.

Siwarak has been detained in a prison in Phnom Penh since last week as the Thai government is now in the process of seeking a release for him.

Chawanon Intarakomalsut, Thai Foreign Minister's secretary said he expected that the process could be completed next week and the engineer's mother could probably visit her son next week.

He also said it would be difficult for any individual to take over the company, but his ministry would try to assist CATS. So far the company has not requested help.

Panithan said that he did not know whether the company could be protected as other companies registered in Cambodia, and it's up to the company to file a request for the Cambodian government to consider.

Thailand and Cambodia have downgraded their diplomatic relations due to conflict over an appointment of Thaksin as an economic advisor to Cambodia's government and Hun Sen on Nov. 4.

A day after the appointment of Thaksin, the Cambodian government announced recall of its ambassador to Thailand in a move to respond to the Thai government's recall of its ambassador to Cambodia.

Thaksin was ousted by the military coup in September 2006, in accusation of corruption, and has been kept in exile since then. He returned to Thailand in February 2008 to face corruption charges, but he later fled into exile again and was convicted in absentia.


Thai aviation staff banned


Cambodia has ordered all Thai air traffic control staff to leave work after one of them was arrested on charges of spying on fugitive Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra (left). --PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK - CAMBODIA has ordered all Thai air traffic control staff to leave work after one of them was arrested on charges of spying on fugitive Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra, a company letter showed on Thursday.

Thai-owned civil aviation company Cambodia Air Traffic Services (CATS), which oversees Cambodian air space, banned the Thai employees after a Cambodian government official was appointed caretaker of the firm. It was not immediately clear if the ban was temporary or permanent.

'The caretaker has prohibited the Thai expatriates from performing their duties,' said company vice-chairman Sirichai Rasameechan in an explanatory letter sent to Thailand's stock exchange, where the company is listed.

The decision deepens a diplomatic crisis between the neighbouring countries over Cambodia's appointment of Thaksin as an economic adviser and its refusal to extradite the ousted prime minister to Bangkok.

Siwarak Chothipong, 31, an employee at CATS, was arrested a week ago on charges of supplying details of Thaksin's flight schedule to his country's embassy when the Thai tycoon visited Phnom Penh last week.

CATS is a fully owned subsidiary of Bangkok-based Samart corporation, which has a 32-year air traffic control concession. Local media said the company employees nine Thai nationals. -- AFP

Vietnam Airlines to launch twice-daily flights to Bangkok


National carrier Vietnam Airlines said its daily Ho Chi Minh City-Bangkok service will become twice daily starting December 1 as the carrier plans for more passengers from Thailand next year.

Do Khoi Nguyen, Vietnam Airlines representative in Bangkok, told Thanh Nien that the new schedule, with one flight in the morning and the other in late afternoon, would be good for the tourist market.

The airline wants to prepare for more Thai tourists next year, when Vietnam celebrates Hanoi’s 1,000th anniversary and the 2010 Hue Festival, he said.

Thailand is one of Vietnam’s key tourism markets. According to the Vietnam National Tourism Administration, more than 125,118 Thai tourists visited the country in the first ten months this year, down 18.8 percent from the same period last year.

The new service is part of a plan implemented in late October to provide more flights on key international and domestic routes. The carrier’s passenger numbers this year are expected to increase 4 percent to 9 million.

Reported by Viet Phuong

Friday, November 20, 2009

Philippine flights given go-ahead to Cambodia

WEDNESDAY, 18 NOVEMBER 2009 15:01 MAY KUNMAKARA

Philippine carrier Cebu Pacific Air has been greenlighted to fly direct routes to Cambodia from next year, although officials have yet to determine a specific launch date for the service

091118_08
Photo by: NATHAN GREEN
Ticket sellers sit idle at Angkor Wat. The Tourism Minister hopes planned direct routes to the Philippines will boost tourism.

We welcome the direct flights ... and hope they start as soon as possible.

Cebu Pacific Air, a Philippines-based airline, plans to begin direct flights between its home country and Cambodia in the spring of 2010, Minister of Tourism Thong Khon said Tuesday.

“Cebu Air is authorised to start flying to our country in March or April next year,” he said, citing a memorandum of understanding signed by Cambodia’s State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) on September 16 to open the airways between the two countries.

The agreement is the fourth Cambodia has made this year allowing direct flights. The SSCA has also inked deals with Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

Under the terms of the agreement, up to seven flights a week originating from Cambodia are authorised to land at Manila, 14 in the Clark Freeport Zone and another 14 for any point in the Philippines outside the two aviation centres.

The Philippines is a major tourism hub in Southeast Asia, Thong Khon said, adding that the deal would draw more tourists directly from the Philippines as well as offer another transfer point for tourists travelling from other locations.

“I hope that tourism from the Philippines will increase further,” he said. “Moreover, with the new flights, we plan not only to attract Filipino tourists, but we also aim to draw tourists from other countries,” he said.

Filipinos do not require a visa to visit Cambodia; nor do Cambodians require a Philippine visa to travel there, Thong Khon said.

Air traffic at the two main Cambodian international airports, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, fell 12.96 percent in the first nine months of 2009 year-on-year, according to Tourism Ministry figures, but the number of tourists arriving from the Philippines bucked the trend. According to ministry’s numbers, 36,608 tourists arrived from the Philippines in the first nine months of 2009, 29.36 percent up from the same period a year earlier.

The Philippines ambassador in Phnom Penh could not be reached for comment, Tuesday.

SSCA Cabinet Chief Long Chheng said the two sides were currently working on ironing out the details of the flights. “I am not sure of the exact date the flights will commence because I have received no confirmation,” he said, adding that an Air Service Agreement (ASA) still must to be signed by both parties.

The SSCA is actively pursuing additional open-skies agreements to boost the tourism sector, Long Chheng said. “We welcome the direct flights from the Philippines and hope they start as soon as possible,” he said. “That will be very good for our tourism sector.”

The SSCA and the CAAP had been working on the agreement since 2007.

Cambodia takes reins of Thai-owned firm as row deepens

By Viparat Jantraprap

BANGKOK, Nov 19 (Reuters) - A diplomatic row between Cambodia and Thailand has moved into the skies after Phnom Penh took control of a Thai-operated air traffic control company at the centre of spying allegations.

The Cambodian government has appointed a senior Civil Aviation official as temporary caretaker for Cambodia Air Traffic Services (CATS), a wholly owned unit of Thailand's Samart Corporation Pcl SAMA.BK, Samart said on Thursday.

All Thai expatriates at the company have been banned from performing their duties, it added.

The neighbouring countries are embroiled in a diplomatic row that began in October when Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen offered fugitive former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra a job as an economic adviser and a home just across the border. Thaksin, twice elected but deposed in a 2006 military coup and sentenced last year to two years in jail for graft, has been living in self-imposed exile, largely in Dubai. He spent five days in Cambodia last week, infuriating the Thai government. [ID:nSP128507]

A Thai engineer working for CATS has been accused of sending Thaksin's flight schedule to a Thai diplomat, who was expelled by Phnom Penh, and violating Cambodian national security laws.

Samart, 19 percent owned by Malaysian telecommunications firm Axiata Group (AXIA.KL), said on Thursday it was seeking support from the Thai government on negotiating with Cambodia for the release of the 31-year-old engineer, Siwarak Chutipongse.

"Samart has been closely cooperating with the Thai government to help negotiate with the Cambodian Government for the release of Mr. Siwarak and resolve this incident," it said in a statement to the stock exchange.

CATS provides air traffic control services with a 32-year concession (2001-2033) under a build, cooperate and transfer arrangement with the Cambodian government, with revenue from the operations this year contributing about 5 percent to the group.

The investment is covered by an investment protection agreement between the two countries, it said.

Thaksin's brief presence in Cambodia fired up passions on both sides of Thailand's political divide, drawing attention to a border where Thai and Cambodian troops have clashed in the past year and causing each country to recall its ambassador. (Editing by Jason Szep)

Thailand's PB Air suspends operations

Thai regional carrier PB Air, which was aiming to add its firstSaab 340 in September, has suspended operations and it is unclear when it plans to resume.

The airline has yet to receive its first Saab 340 as planned and it has stopped using its ATR 72 from Bangkok Airways, say industry sources.

PB Air's website has an announcement that the airline has suspended operations but it fails to mention when it will resume again.

Executives from PB Air were unavailable for comment when contacted by ATI today.

PB Air was operating from Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport to six domestic destinations such as Mae Sot, Buriram and Roi-et.

ATI reported in August that PB Air's wet-lease on a Bangkok Airways ATR 72 would be ending in October and that in September it would be adding one Saab 340 and another in October. Both Saabs were to be dry-leased from US leasing company AeroCentury.

Cambodia strains ties even more - All Thai staff banned from air traffic office

Cambodia intensified the diplomatic spat with Thailand yesterday when authorities in Phnom Penh expelled all Thai officials from their offices at Cambodia Air Traffic Services.

The order by the Cambodian government came after Phnom Penh filed charges yesterday against Sivarak Chutipong, a Thai engineer working for CATS.

"Cambodia has charged him with stealing classified information affecting national security," said Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, the secretary to the foreign minister.

The Cambodian government ordered Thai nationals working for CATS to immediately leave the company and prohibited them from re-entering until the legal proceedings against Mr Sivarak are completed, Samart Corporation Plc president Watchai Wilailuck said.

CATS, a fully owned subsidiary of Bangkok-based Samart, has been granted a 32-year air traffic control concession.

The firm employs nine Thai officials at the Cambodian airport, all of them either in management or senior engineering positions. About 200 other staff members are Cambodians.

Mr Watchai was told Cambodian authorities would send their own people to operate the company.

"We need to follow Cambodia's order and are asking the Thai government to help negotiate with the Cambodian government to solve the problem because it is affecting a private business which has nothing to do with the state dispute," Mr Watchai said.

Thailand and Cambodia are signatories to the Investment Protection Agreement to protect each other's private businesses.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said the Foreign Ministry has been ordered to look into the problem of CATS.

Mr Sivarak was arrested on Nov 12 for allegedly obtaining confidential information about the flight details of convicted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and supplying it to the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh.

The Cambodian government also expelled the embassy's first secretary, Kamrob Palawatwichai and Thailand retaliated with the same measure.

The 31-year-old detainee and the Thai Foreign Ministry have denied the accusations.

Deputy ministry spokesman Thani Thongpakdi said the ministry was helping to find Mr Sivarak a lawyer. Cambodian law requires his legal representative to be a Cambodian national.

"The Thai side still believes in Cambodia's judicial process and hopes Phnom Penh will be fair to Mr Sivarak," Mr Thani said.

Thaksin wrote in his Twitter page yesterday he had contacted Cambodian leaders to find ways to help the Thai engineer being detained at Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh.

"I've been in touch with them. They said they would investigate first and will treat him fairly," he said in his posting.

Mr Abhisit refused to comment on the assistance by Thaksin to help secure the release of the engineer and said the government's actions had been helping to improve the situation for Mr Sivarak.

But Mr Sivarak's mother, Simarak na Nakhon Phanom, thanked Thaksin for his efforts to help secure the release of her son.

Deputy director-general of the Consular Affairs Department Madurapochana Ittarong was helping Mrs Simarak and Mr Sivarak's younger sister to obtain access to him in Phnom Penh.

Puea Thai Party chairman Chavalit Yongchaiyudh also offered to help in talks with the Cambodian government.

Mr Thani said Gen Chavalit's offer was welcome.

The latest conflict between the Thai and Cambodian governments started last month when Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen made Thaksin an economic adviser to himself and to his government. Thailand was offended when Hun Sen said Thaksin's corruption case was politically motivated and refused to hand him over to Bangkok.

The fugitive prime minister left the Cambodian capital for Dubai on Saturday.

Puea Thai MP Jatuporn Prompan yesterday claimed the Cambodian government had an audio clip of Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya ordering Mr Kamrob to seek the flight schedule of the ousted prime minister.

But Mr Thani denied the claim.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

New president slams Thai Airways

By Juliana Liu
Business reporter, BBC News

Piyasvasti Amranand
Mr Amranand slammed favouritism at his airline

The new president of Thai Airways has strongly criticised political interference in his airline.

Thailand's loss-making national carrier continues to struggle with enormous pressure from outside, Piyasvasti Amranand told the BBC.

The newly appointed head of Thai Airways was in London on a global road show to gather investor support.

"The management had not really been allowed to manage the company," Mr Amranand said in an unusually frank interview.

"The company had been interfered heavily by the board, by the politicians. That had substantially weakened the management of the company, and our response to the crisis."

Restructuring

He has been the airline's president for just four weeks. Mr Amranand said it had taken months of negotiations to secure a strong enough mandate for his new job.

On Monday, the state-owned carrier reported a net loss of $121m (£71.8m) for the July-to-September quarter.

The results were worse than analysts had expected. They forecast another loss in the fourth quarter, traditionally high season for tourism.

Thai Airways is currently overhauling its management and business operations after reporting a record loss in the last three months of 2008.

Mr Amranand seems an unusual pick to run the national carrier. As a fund manager, he refused to own shares in the airline.

"Thai Airways was a company which did not provide transparent information to investors," he said.

"Thai Airways management were not able to provide clear directions or policy to investors. Most of the big funds, whether in Thailand or outside Thailand, stayed away from Thai Airways stocks."

'Top three'

Mr Amranand said he had been drawn to head the airline because it was in trouble.

"I would like to see the company becoming one of the best airlines again in Asia, and the world. Maybe top three in Asia, top five in the world, within two or three years," he said.

Central to this success, he said, was reducing political interference in the day to day running of the airline, which is majority owned by the state.

He said one of the most serious problems was nepotism and favouritism in promotions and in the awarding of contracts.

"When you promote people who have connections but no ability, initially it's okay, but eventually it weakens the company, Mr Amranand said.

"It reduces the quality of the work. That is what has happened to Thai Airways."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thaksin can't fly over Thailand

Cambodia's arrest of Thai mechanic seen as act of intimidation, says Thailand. -The Nation/ANN


Sat, Nov 14, 2009
The Nation/Asia News Network

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban yesterday said the authorities would not allow Thaksin Shinawatra's private jet to fly over Thailand on his way out of Cambodia following the arrest of a Thai mechanic on spying charges.

Cambodian authorities arrested and charged Siwarak Chothipong, an engineer at Cambodia Air Traffic Services, with stealing flight information involving fugitive ex-premier Thaksin and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Suthep said the flight schedule was not regarded as an official secret and was readily available. Therefore, Thailand did not have to use Siwarak to obtain it.

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya yesterday described Cambodia's arrest of the mechanic as an act of intimidation with intent to defame Thailand.

Meanwhile, a group of government MPs yesterday threatened to file an impeachment motion against some 50 opposition Pheu Thai MPs who skipped a joint parliamentary session to meet Thaksin in Cambodia.

The ousted premier yesterday held a meeting with the Pheu Thai MPs in the Cambodian city of Siem Reap.

Watchara Petchthong, Democrat for Bangkok, said the House and the Senate had scheduled a joint session in advance to deliberate the framework on negotiations of international agreements and treaties but that dozens of opposition MPs were absent.

Watchara said those MPs could be in violation of Article 157 of the Criminal Code for failing to perform their official duty.

"These MPs knew about the joint session in advance, but still they skipped it," he said.

Attaporn Ponlaboot, Democrat for Phetchaburi, said government MPs would hold a meeting to see if there should be an impeachment motion against the opposition MPs.

Siwarak was accused of stealing the information and sending it to the Thai Embassy's first secretary, Kamrob Palawatwichai, who was expelled from Cambodia on Thursday.

The Cambodians accused Kamrob of having "executed work in contradiction to his position". Thailand responded by expelling the Cambodian Embassy's first secretary in the same fashion.

Thaksin, wanted by Thai authorities to serve his jail sentence in connection with a conviction for corruption, is on a visit to Phnom Penh to lecture Cambodian bureaucrats and business people. He also met with red-shirt supporters and politicians from the opposition Pheu Thai Party.

"This is clearly intimidation with intent to defame Thailand by Cambodia," Kasit said of the spying charge.

He cut short his participation in ministerial preparatory meetings for the Apec Summit in Singapore later this month.

He described the arrest as "absurd" and "a mischievous frame-up".

The foreign minister said he had assigned Thai Embassy officials in Phnom Penh to assist and provide legal advice to Siwarak.

Kasit also accused Thaksin of being the major cause of the problems between Thailand and Cambodia. And without naming anyone, he said: "The leader of our neighbouring country should give priority to the public interest and not the benefit of his family, which will bring about disaster to his country."

Cambodia's appointment of Thaksin as economic adviser to Hun Sen and his government ignited new diplomatic tensions between the two countries, which recalled their ambassadors and expelled the respective embassies' first secretaries. Thailand has downgraded relations and reviewed cooperation and loans.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said his government would not be lured into a trap by the Cambodian authorities, but rather would move cautiously.

Speaking before leaving for Singapore to attend the Apec Summit this weekend, Abhisit said the arrested man would obtain government assistance in the same way as other Thai nationals facing legal problems abroad.

Earlier yesterday at Government House, Kasit met Abhisit for about an hour after returning from Singapore.

The prime minister told reporters afterward that Kasit had reported on actions taken by the Foreign Ministry in this new spat with Cambodia. He said despite attempts aimed at provoking Thailand, his government would "not dance to their tune".

Abhisit said he was satisfied with the measures taken so far and that further action would be considered carefully, with a focus on making a "real impact".

IATA wants single airport for Bangkok

The International Air Transport Association is urging the government to operate a single airport for Bangkok and suggests officials build a domestic terminal at Suvarnabhumi.

IATA director-general and chief executive Giovanni Bisignani on November 2 delivered a letter to Transport Minister Sophon Saram advocating a single airport for the capital.

It said a one-airport policy was best for passengers, airlines and the local economy.

"IATA asked that the government reconsider its proposal to operate two commercial airports in Bangkok. The old Don Mueang Airport should be used for general aviation and non-scheduled traffic," Bisignani said yesterday.

The government recently announced it would operate two airports for Bangkok: three-year-old Suvarnabhumi Airport and Don Mueang Airport.

Bisignani said Bangkok served as the gateway to Thailand and was a critical transit hub for international and domestic travellers, so it should have all operations in one location.

"Splitting airline operations between two airports will no doubt result in increased passenger inconvenience for travellers flying into one airport and out of the other. Also, two airports will result in a duplication of investment - in airlines, airports and Aerothai [Aeronautical Radio of Thailand, which manages air-traffic control] resources - leading to increased costs for airline and passengers. Both of these factors will have a detrimental effect on the sustainable viability of airline operations in Thailand," he said.

IATA is also aware Suvarnabhumi Airport is operating close to its stated capacity of 45 million passengers.

Rather than diverting resources to Don Mueang, all efforts should be made to optimise and expand Suvarnabhumi's capacity instead, Bisignani said.

"In this regard, IATA urges the government to initiate a new domestic terminal with a capacity of 65 million passengers by 2013. In the interim, all stakeholders need to work together to enhance and ensure initialisation of current facilities," he said.

Bisignani said the present slowdown in aviation traffic provided an added incentive and a window of opportunity for this effort.

The letter said the World Travel and Tourism Council reported travel and tourism last year contributed US$38 billion (Bt1.27 trillion) to gross domestic product and provided 4 million jobs in Thailand.

It said the government should try to maintain its regional leadership in the industry by persuading airlines to remain.

IATA, along with the local Board of Airline Representatives and the Airline Operators Committee of Bangkok, is ready to work with the government in this matter, Bisignani said.

Vietnam Airlines agrees to buy six new Airbus aircraft

Vietnam Airlines has agreed to buy six new Airbus aircraft, Reuters reports.

The deal includes four A380 super-jumbos and two A350XWB-900 wide-body composite jets, Reuters said. It is worth about $1.79 billion at list prices, although airlines generally get steep discounts.

The deal came during the French prime minister's visit to Hanoi. It also includes a partnership to build certain parts for Airbus and the establishment of a pilot and engineer training center in the country.

Vietnam airlines has 16 composite Boeing 787 Dreamliners on order, but Pham Ngoc Minh, the carrier's president and chief executive, told Reuters in September that he was unhappy with the program's delays.

iPSTAR sales fuel Thaicom improvement

Bandwidth demand for broadband high

Thaicom Plc, the country's sole satellite-service provider, is projecting double-digit revenue growth next year, propelled by a double-digit increase in bandwidth sales from its iPSTAR broadband satellites.

A sharp rise in iPSTAR bandwidth sales is expected to stem from Australia, India, China and Japan, which could lift the 45-gigabit satellite's bandwidth usage to reach its break-even point of 15% in 2010, up from 10% currently.

Tanadit Charoenchan, executive vice-president for finance, said Thaicom expected to return to the black this year, faster than previously expected.

Thaicom yesterday reported a profit of 51 million baht in the third quarter, compared with a loss of 115 million in the same period last year.

Revenue in the third quarter rose 3.1% year-on-year to 1.83 billion baht, of which 1.17 billion came from satellite services, with 600 million from iPSTAR alone.

For the first nine months of the year, Thaicom's net profit was 29.24 million baht (0.03 baht a share), compared with a loss of 116.1 million (0.11 baht a share) in the same period last year.

Mr Tanadit said the company was seeing an improvement in overall revenue trends this year, with a better performance expected in the fourth quarter, thanks to a shift from selling terminals to selling bandwidth, which offers an opportunity for long-term revenue.

Thanapong Na Ranong, assistant vice-president for marketing, said Thaicom planned to tap into the ADSL market to increase sales next year. The company also plans to introduce IPTV application services next year.

He attributed iPSTAR's improved bandwidth sales to competitive pricing, thanks to the low cost of the satellite due to its large bandwidth capacity.

iPSTAR's costs are one-tenth those of the Thaicom 1 and 2 satellites, and one-quarter those of Thaicom 5, he said.

Thaicom 1 has 15 transponders while Thaicom 2 has 10 transponders. Thaicom 1's service life is due to end this month and Thaicom 2's service life in the middle of next year. The company has already transferred all Thaicom 1 customers to its iPSTAR and Thaicom 5 satellites.

Thaicom 5 has 25 C-band and 14 Ku-band transponders, and its bandwidth usage has reached 75%.

Shares of Thaicom (THCOM) closed yesterday on the Stock Exchange of Thailand at 7.75 baht, down five satang, in trade worth 14.33 million baht.