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Suvarnabhumi Airport : Flight Status

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Suvarnabhumi vows to target luggage thieves

Airport, airlines blame outsourced companies

This special combination lock, recommended by the US Transportation Security Administration, can be opened by airport officials making random security checks of luggage. The officials have secured codes and tools to safely open and reclose the locks, without cutting them or damaging the bag.

Suvarnabhumi airport is stepping up surveillance of luggage on conveyor belts _ not to look for explosive material, but to prevent bags from being opened and valuables stolen by staff, airport director Serirat Prasutanond said yesterday.

Mr Serirat said security cameras are an effective tool for monitoring irregularities at the airport, but the airport needs more people to patrol areas where cameras are not installed.

He made the comments after reporting on thefts from luggage of inbound passengers at the airport.

The airport is only required to oversee baggage on its conveyor belts, while airlines are responsible for carrying bags to and from the terminal, he said. Airlines outsource the duty to other firms.

Besides staff of the various firms, other thieves could be people who pretend to be luggage transporters, Mr Serirat said. They board vehicles transporting luggage and rummage through the bags, he said.

One suspected thief has been arrested after an illegal act was recorded by security camera, he said. Another incident occurred on Aug 12, when a passenger of a Thai Airways International (THAI) flight from Chiang Mai to Suvarnabhumi complained of valuables being stolen, Mr Serirat added.

Chayata Tharnpisalsamut, a university student, said brand-name handbags and belts were stolen from her luggage early this year on the flight from London to Bangkok. The bag was delayed for a day and it had been opened, she said.

''My friend lost 10 Diesel watches among other things,'' she said of a friend who returned on a flight from the US.

Some thefts have been blamed on employees of companies hired by THAI and Bangkok Airways to carry passengers' bags between airplanes and the terminal.

Chaturongkapol Sodmanee, deputy director of Suvarnabhumi, said bags from the US were vulnerable because, according to a US law, passengers are not allowed to lock their luggage, facilitating random checks at airports, unless they use devices approved by the US Transportation Security Administration. These locks are specially designed to be opened only by certain airport officials who need to inspect bags, he said.

THAI president president Apinan Sumanaseni vowed to make sure companies hired by THAI did not employ people who would be involved in such criminal acts.


Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Airlines slam AoT for excessive fees

Low landing fees but costly hidden charges

The dispute between airlines and the Thai airport monopoly over airport users' fees has resurfaced as both sides remain steadfast in their arguments over rates.

The Board of Airlines' Representatives in Thailand (BAR), an industry group representing 64 international carriers, revived the debate last month when it alleged that the high charges at Suvarnabhumi Airport undermined Bangkok's bid to become Southeast Asia's aviation hub.

Suvarnabhumi Airport general manager Serirat Prasutanond insisted this week that its landing and parking fees were either below or close to those of other regional airports.

Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT) raised the landing and parking charges by 15% in April, much to the dismay of airlines.

Mr Serirat said in an interview that the parking and landing fee for a Boeing 747-400 at Suvarnabhumi was US$1,892 based on an exchange rate of 34 baht to the dollar, compared with $3,012 at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) and $2,351 at Singapore Changi Airport.

He conceded that Suvarnabhumi's landing and parking fees were still higher than those at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), while acknowledging that there were charges imposed on airlines that were beyond AoT's control. ''Excluding Japan, we ranked third, after Singapore and Hong Kong,'' he said.

But the BAR and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) have disputed his claims, pointing to other fees imposed at Suvarnabhumi.

Airlines looked at their total turnaround costs at an airport, said Albert Tjoeng, IATA spokesman for Asia Pacific, explained.

''That's because in addition to landing and parking fees, a turnaround flight also has to pay other charges, such as the aerobridge charge, air-conditioning charges, concession fees, etc,'' he said.

''It is more meaningful to compare Bangkok with Kuala Lumpur and Singapore as these three airports compete for similar traffic, and have similar unit costs. The turnaround cost at Bangkok is the most expensive among the three airports for various aircraft types,'' Mr Tjoeng said, citing IATA figures (see table).

BAR president Brian Sinclair-Thompson also maintains that the Suvarnabhumi charges are uncompetitive, which has deterred airlines from adding flights, and in some cases caused them to divert to other airports.

Chotisak Asapaviriya, the former head of AoT, answered critics at IATA in August last year by saying that airlines unhappy with Suvarnabhumi could choose not to use the facilities.

The Thai government's inconsistent airport policy and uncertainty over future airport expansion has also caused Bangkok to lose out to neighbouring countries including China, India and Vietnam, added Mr Sinclair-Thompson, who also serves as general manger for Southeast Asia for Swissair.

Mr Serirat, however, questioned why airlines were complaining when landing and parking constituted only 3-4% of the total airline trip cost.

He said AoT was constantly monitoring rival airports' fees to ensure Bangkok remains competitive.

He argued that AoT needed to generate revenue to cover expenses and investments for the 125-billion-baht airport's construction.

IATA's Mr Tjoeng countered that airlines were paying for AoT's mistakes.

''AoT needs to ensure that its own expenses and investments are cost-efficient. Productivity improvements, lack of wasteful investment, optimal procurement policies are all important to keep costs to a minimum,'' he said.

''Airlines should not be burdened with additional costs due to poor planning, compensation issues, repair costs arising from defects at the airport, duplicated services as a result of operating two airports, and the other mistakes of AoT,'' he said. ''Charges need to be cost-based, and transparent,'' he said.

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