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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Theera reluctant to use Don Mueang

Despite calls for more flights to use the old airport, Transport Minister Theera Haocharoen and his deputy are reluctant to use Don Mueang and have advised the Airports of Thailand (AoT) to make better use of Suvarnabhumi.

The AoT board on Saturday decided to use Don Mueang for both local and international flights so the AoT would not be faced with the immediate and costly expansion of the congested Suvarnabhumi.

Adm Theera said the plan needed careful consideration, and should take into account the national interests and the promotion of Suvarnabhumi airport as a regional transport hub.

The minister believes good management alone can increase the capacity of Suvarnabhumi from 45 million to 50 million passengers annually.

Deputy Minister Sansern Wongcha-um said the AoT needed to review its plans and look at the views of airlines, technical aviation limitations and make a clear expansion plan for Suvarnabhumi.

According to Mr Sansern, airlines would be inconvenienced if their connecting flights are returned to Don Mueang, and that could affect the goal of Suvarnabhumi airport becoming a regional air transport hub.

Mr Sansern wants the AoT to clearly state how Suvarnabhumi will function in the next five years so airlines will know if they must return to Suvarnabhumi airport from Don Mueang.

He warned the AoT that it was not easy to run two airports in the capital. Technical limitations would stop Don Mueang reaching its former annual capacity of 33 million passengers, he said.

Charnnarong Chuacharoen, the business director of Aeronautical Radio of Thailand Co, said air traffic controllers would have to be more cautious if both Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang were to operate simultaneously.

They are close to each other and their runway alignments converge, he said.

At present, Don Mueang is used mainly in the daytime, while Suvarnabhumi is used more at night. There are not many flights taking off or landing at the same time from both airports, so there is not too much pressure on air traffic control, he said.

If both airports operate together, Don Mueang will not reach its full capacity because Bangkok's air traffic will be congested and flights will have to wait longer in queues, said Mr Charnnarong.

No study has been done on the appropriate amount of traffic for Don Mueang, and that will affect Bangkok's overall air transport services and traffic control, he said.

The AoT board also decided on Saturday to expand Phuket International airport, which has seen an increase in traffic, especially chartered flights, in the past two years. The airport now handles 5.4 million passengers annually.

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