Bangkok air­port woes draw spot­light

Business Mirror - - ASEANMONDAY - By Boon­song Kositchotethana Bangkok Post, Thai­land

DUBLIN—Bangkok’s de­fi­ciency in air­port ca­pac­ity con­tin­ues to irk the global air­line in­dus­try, as the city was sin­gled out at a yearly sum­mit as the only Asian des­ti­na­tion with se­ri­ous prob­lems.

Tony Tyler, di­rec­tor gen­eral of the In­ter­na­tional Air Trans­port As­so­ci­a­tion ( IATA), on Thurs­day specif­i­cally named Bangkok among five cities fac­ing a se­vere air­port-ca­pac­ity crunch.

The others are New York, Lon­don, São Paulo and Frank­furt, where con­ges­tion is crit­i­cal and ef­forts to ad­dress the prob­lem have fallen short of in­dus­try ex­pec­ta­tions.

“Some gov­ern­ments un­der­stand that avi­a­tion in­fras­truc­ture is a driver of na­tional com­pet­i­tive­ness. But too many have for­got­ten. We see that with bot­tle­necks in cities as far flung as New York, Lon­don, São Paulo, Frank­furt and Bangkok,” Tyler said.

“In some cases, we have the para­dox­i­cal sit­u­a­tion of world-class air­ports on the ground and grid­lock in the skies,” he added.

But Tyler noted that author­i­ties in China are work­ing to im­prove the frus­trat­ing sit­u­a­tion there.

“It’s im­por­tant that we see im­prove­ments in the Gulf, as well,” he said, re­fer­ring to the Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha air­ports in the Per­sian Gulf.

“The big­ger ques­tion is, why aren’t gov­ern­ment de­ci­sions on in­fras­truc­ture more mo­ti­vated by see­ing avi­a­tion as a force for good?” he asked. “Short-term pol­i­tics gets in the way of long-term na­tional in­ter­est.”

IATA officials said Tyler made ref­er­ence to Bangkok’s Su­varn­ab­humi air­port, be­cause of its im­por­tance as a large air hub in South­east Asia, fre­quented by some 100 air­lines.

Su­varn­ab­humi’s ex­pan­sion is a decade be­hind the orig­i­nal plan, and only now are Thai author­i­ties be­gin­ning to set long- awaited work in mo­tion.

In 2015 Su­varn­ab­humi, the gate­way to Thai­land and the largest air­port in the coun­try, han­dled 52.9 mil­lion pas­sen­gers, up nearly 14 per­cent from the pre­vi­ous year, de­spite a de­signed pas­sen­ger ca­pac­ity of 45 mil­lion a year.

In the first quar­ter of this year, the air­port’s pas­sen­ger traf­fic rose by 8.03 per­cent year- on-year to 15.27 mil­lion.

IATA has been press­ing state­con­trolled Air­ports of Thai­land Plc. (AoT) to fast-track the phase 2 ex­pan­sion that would pro­vide a much­needed in­crease in ca­pac­ity at Su­varn­ab­humi, where traf­fic is soar­ing by more than 10 per­cent an­nu­ally.

In his ad­dress to the 72nd IATA gen­eral meet­ing in Dublin, Tyler un­der­lined the im­por­tance of avi­a­tion to the world econ­omy. With trav­el­ers mak­ing 3.8 bil­lion jour­neys by air this year, avi­a­tion sup­ports 63 mil­lion jobs and un­der­pins 3.5 per­cent of the global econ­omy, he said.

AoT Chair­man Pra­song Poon­taneat has in­sisted that bid­ding for jobs re­lated to the air­port ex­pan­sion is in process and that the ex­pan­sion, which will raise pas­sen­ger ca­pac­ity to 60 mil­lion a year, should be up and run­ning in 2019.


KITJA Api­chon­ro­jarek

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