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Extracted from The Nation


Travel and hotel bodies warn of inconvenience, especially to international travellers


The Association of Domestic Travel (ADT) and the Thai hotels Association (THA) yesterday voiced their objection to a plan to move most domestic flights from Suvarnabhumi Airport to Don Muang Airport as it would inconvenience travellers.


ADT president Charoen Wangananont said the use of two airports in Bangkok would not help, because those who had to fly on both routes would have to travel from one airport to the other.


The two airports are located far apart without a mass-transportation system to connect them yet.


"Imagine people living in Ubon Ratchathani province who have to travel abroad. They will need to get a flight to Don Muang Airport and then take a bus or a taxi to Suvarnabhumi Airport, which could take two or three hours on the road, said Charoen.


"This will annoy travellers."


Earlier this month, the Airports of Thailand (AOT) board of directors approved moving most of the domestic flights from Suvarnabhumi to Don Muang tentatively from March, due to traffic congestion at Suvarnabhumi. The Cabinet is set to make a decision at its meeting next week.


Charoen said although AOT had said it would maintain domestic flights with international connection, such as Phuket, at Suvarnabhumi, some travellers connecting to other flights to Phuket from elsewhere would have to go to Don Muang.


"The connecting flight time might take longer than flying between Suvarnabhumi and Phuket," he said. Passengers will end up paying more for transportation. Charoen said the plan to revive Don Muang had been proposed without proper study or research, particularly about return on investment.


"The government bodies just want to re-use the old airport, but they have not discussed the details in-depth," he added.


Charoen suggested using the old airport as an optional or reserved airport rather than for commercial flights.


Prakit Chinamourpong, vice president of THA, made the same point, saying the association disagreed with the plan, because it would cause trouble for connecting passengers.


Apichart Sankary, president of Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA), said that the body had urged the government and AOT to inform the private sector three months before moving domestic flights to Don Muang, so that they could make preparations.


"I also told AOT to find out whether they would provide free shuttle buses between the two airports," said Apichart.


ATTA urged the government to complete the airport link if it wants to reopen the old airport soon.


Representatives of inbound tour operator CTS Travel Asia, and a hotel operator in Phuket, Club Andaman, said they support the reopening of Don Muang Airport as they believed the airport still had a good infrastructure and cheaper operation costs.


"The new Suvarnabhumi Airport has been open for just four months, but it has already reached full capacity. So Don Muang can be used to accommodate more flights or charter flights," one of the operators added.


The reopening of Don Muang could also help businesses, especially airport hotels and shops, located in the north part of Bangkok.


ATTA figures show tourists using its members from January 1-14 totalled 97,501, 9.1 per cent down from 107,265 in the same period last year.


Suchat Sritama


The Nation

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