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IATA blasts AoT decision to shift flights


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Extracted from the Bangkok Post




The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said yesterday that a decision by Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT) to shift some commercial flights back to Don Muang would dampen Bangkok's potential for becoming an aviation hub. Making flight connections between two airports would be a huge inconvenience for passengers, and might further damage the attractiveness of Thailand as a tourist destination, the world's largest airline trade group said.


Responding to a query from the Bangkok Post, Albert Tjoeng, the IATA spokesman for Asia-Pacific, said: ''Imagine a passenger arriving in Suvarnabhumi and having to catch a connecting domestic flight or no-frills flight from Don Muang. How long will that connection take including baggage collection, travel from Suvarnabhumi to Don Muang and then check-in for the next flight? If an airport wants to be a hub, it is important to keep the connection time low.''


IATA has always supported the Thai governments' policy of having a single airport for Bangkok, largely because it would provide easy connections for passengers and facilitate airline operations.


Mr Tjoeng said that if AoT insisted on going ahead with the reopening of Don Muang for commercial flights, then it had to ensure a level playing field for all airlines.


While the landing and parking fees at both Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang airports are the same, the cost of renting space at Don Muang would be cheaper.


Several Bangkok-based airline managers yesterday expressed support for AoT's decision to shift point-to-point domestic flights back to Don Muang in a move to relieve congestion at four-month-old Suvarnabhumi.


They said it was the best immediate solution to unresolved problems, including insufficient toilet facilities, cracking taxiways and heavy traffic at the new airport, which is already nearing its designed annual capacity of 45 million passengers.


This scenario could benefit passengers travelling domestic point-to-point routes, as well as the airlines, in that they would be processed through a more accessible, roomy and complete airport.


Airline executives estimated that Suvarnabhumi could be relieved of as much as 30% of its traffic load by transferring selected flights to Don Muang. This would prolong the service lifespan of Bangkok's troubled new airport, particularly at a time when the government remains indecisive about the airport's expansion.


Thai Airways International president Apinan Sumanaseni yesterday expressed support for AoT's decision. He said THAI was prepared to move point-to-point domestic flights to Don Muang while keeping those requiring connecting international flights, such as those from Chiang Mai, Phuket and Krabi, at Suvarnabhumi.


THAI operates about 300 domestic flights a week.


At least three airlines that offer domestic services including One-Two-Go, Nok Air and Thai AirAsia, have shown no objection to the move.


IATA said there was urgent need to build a new mid-field terminal to create additional capacity for Suvarnabhumi.


However, Apichart Sankary, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA), said using dual airports may not suit tour operators as they would need to provide facilities at both, entailing more cost and time.


He said that AoT should be open about the problems at Suvarnabhumi airport in order to allow private sectors to prepare operations accordingly.


He said if the government wanted to use two airports, the airport-link project should link to Don Muang as well.


He said some big cities had two airports but they had efficient transport links.


Maiyarat Pheerayakoses, managing director of Lee Ben Travel Service Co, said that if the government wanted to use Don Muang, a transport link between the two airports was vital because passengers would choose to fly to the airport destination with the most convenient facilities.

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