Low Cost Carriers To Move To Don Mueng Airport Order from Government + 17 March follow up
Posted 17 March 2012 - 01:29 PM
Taken from the Nation Newspaper 16 March. I for one may be affected by this as due to fly Tiger Airways (SEAIR) on 16 April to the Philippines.
Govt decision prompted by mounting chaos and congestion at Suvarnabhumi
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has ordered that all low-cost airlines move to Don Mueang Airport to improve air and runway traffic at Suvarnabhumi, but the plan is unlikely to ease the current turmoil frustrating countless travelers.
The shift of low-cost carriers to Don Mueang was announced by Deputy Prime Minister and Tourism and Sports Minister Chumpol Silapa-archa yesterday in response to a growing outcry from departing Suvarnabhumi passengers, many of whom have missed flights or suffered close calls.
People familiar with the problem doubt whether the long-planned move of low-cost services to Don Mueang will ease the current crisis at Suvarnabhumi, where renovation work has cut the capacity of immigration checkpoints by two-thirds.
Officials contacted by The Nation yesterday could not say for certain when the renovation work would be completed.
Chumpol admitted that the current problem of passenger congestion stemmed from the fact that only one of Suvarnabhumi's three immigration gates was operating.
International passengers are now being advised to arrive at the airport at least three hours before their flight leaves, rather than the standard two hours.
Chumpol said news of the passenger bottleneck only reached him on Wednesday. He said he could not get involved with the problem but gave assurances that the transfer of low-cost airlines to Don Mueang Airport would help reduce the congestion.
He is now working with the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Tourist Police, and Airports of Thailand (AOT) to help increase personnel by 30 to 40.
Meanwhile, Deputy Transport Minister Chatchart Sithipan said yesterday that in the short term, the ministry would increase officers at the Suvarnabhumi's immigration areas to help relieve congestion in the short term. AOT, as the airport operator, has been assigned the task. In addition, the ministry is coordinating with police to help out.
In the long term, he said the airport would deploy technologies such as an e-passport system that consumes less time, especially with Thai passengers. This would also resolve the problem of congestion at the airport during rush hours. Currently, Suvarnabhumi has annual traffic of 48 million passengers, in excess of its capacity of 45 million.
An Immigration Police source said increasing checkpoint staff was not the answer. "All checkpoints are being manned to full capacity. The problem is not shortage of personnel," the source said.
A source at the Transport Ministry said the government planned to move all domestic and international flights serviced by low-cost airlines to Don Mueang Airport in a bid to resolve congestion at Suvarnabhumi Airport in the long run.
"It's believed that the government must encourage low-cost airlines with incentives to move their services to Don Mueang Airport," said the source, adding that Air Asia alone had 82-90 flights daily.
Apart from Air Asia, major low-cost airlines using Suvarnabhumi Airport are Bangkok Airways and Orient Thai.
Somchai Sawasdipol, acting director of Suvarnabhumi Airport, said he had coordinated with immigration officials to solve the problem of long queues and would pay overtime to officials of Bt100,000 per day as incentive.
Of total immigration counters, 124 are for inbound passengers and 80 are for the outbound.
Maiyarat Pheerayakoses, president of the Association of Domestic Travel, said she had no problem with the government move to shift all low-cost flights to Don Mueang Airport. However, the government should do it very carefully, especially in cases of passengers with connecting flights.
As a long-term solution, she said she did not mind having two airports in Bangkok. It is common in other nations to have separate domestic and international airports. However, transport connection between the two must be developed well to make it convenient for passengers.
The new phase of construction development at Suvarnabhumi should proceed quickly so as to be ready to serve the growing number of passengers after the implementation of the Asean Economic Community in 2015, she said.
Speaking of the current congestion, she said the problem was due to mismanagement by the Immigration Bureau at the airport. She urged the agency to tackle the problem quickly by increasing the number of officers working at the airport.
A further report in 'The Nation" prompted by the Budget airlines needing a clearer plan
Operators have asked the government to lay out a clearer plan for moving low-cost airlines to Don Mueang Airport in a bid to reduce congestion at Suvarnabhumi, saying the main airport could serve 10 million more passengers a year but was poorly managed.
Udom Tantiprasongchai, owner and chief executive officer of Orient Thai Airlines, said the government should have a clear plan on the reuse of Don Mueang Airport, as well as a long-term operational plan. Pre-viously, its policy has been uncertain and confusing.
He said moving his airline's operation base would cost at least Bt10 million, including setting up facilities to serve passengers. It would also have an impact on employees' residential arrangements, causing a big economic loss. The company will cooperate with the government, but needs a long-term plan to secure its business, he said.
Tassapol Bijleveld, CEO of Thai AirAsia, said the company could not say whether it would move to Don Mueang after the recent government decision. The reason is that the operational policy is unclear.
He said Airports of Thailand, operator of Bangkok's two airports, should call for airline operators to discuss and map out the direction together. Relocating to another airport must |be considered carefully and in detail |on every aspect of such a move, especially a flood-protection plan and |the readiness of Don Mueang to support it.
Udom said the government should also have a public relations plan so local and foreign tourists understand the situation. This is especially important for overseas travellers, who want to avoid inconvenience.
He said the congestion at Suvar-nabhumi was due to mismanagement of the airport. Despite its great size, it can handle fewer passengers than Singapore's Changi or Hong Kong's Chek Lap Kok, which are smaller.
Also, the airport has 10 inactive hours a day that could accommodate takeoffs and landings.
Posted 17 March 2012 - 02:59 PM
Posted 17 March 2012 - 03:18 PM