Bangkok airport woes draw spotlight
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.