Thai Budget Carriers Want to Move Back to Old Airport

Suvarnabhumi Airport - new international airport in Thailand

Thailand's low-cost carriers said Wednesday they want to move their operations back to Bangkok's old airport, citing increased costs at the capital's new international airport.

"The new airport is getting busy with more traffic, while our operation costs are rising," said Tassapon Bijleveld, chief executive officer of budget airline Thai Air Asia.

"Consequently, every low-cost airline would like to discuss the possibility with airport officials of moving back to Don Muang," he told AFP.

The new three-billion-dollar Suvarnabhumi airport officially opened to much fanfare less than three weeks ago, replacing the creaking Don Muang airport.

Suvarnabhumi, or "golden land", airport is expected to handle 38 million passengers in its first year, rising to 45 million passengers per year in the future.

Airport officials have already announced plans to build a 16-million-dollar terminal to cater to budget carriers within 16 months. They are still debating possible uses for decades-old Don Muang airport.

"We have to listen to the reasons why low cost airlines want to move back to Don Muang, but so far they have not started official discussions about this issue," Chaisak Angkasuwan, director general of the government's aviation department, told AFP.

"The final decision will be based on the economic value if we operate two separate airports -- Don Muang and Suvarnabhumi -- at the same time."

Chaisak recently urged Airports of Thailand (AOT), which operates Suvarnabhumi, to think about expanding the new airport in response to an expected jump in traffic over the next five years.

AOT president Chotisak Asapaviriya said he did not understand why the budget airlines wanted to move back to Don Muang, and said operating costs for low cost carriers were unlikely to rise at the new airport.

The only price hike, he said, was a 15-percent increase in landing fees, which will take effect in April 2007.

He said AOT will hold a meeting Friday with airlines to discuss the problem.

"The new airport could serve up to 45 million passengers yearly. I have not seen any reason to say that it is getting too crowded at the moment," Chotisak added.

Source: AFP

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