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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Policies detailed by Airports of Thailand

BANGKOK: Airports of Thailand, the public company which runs many of the country's airports, is aiming to develop more non-aeronautical revenue.

This is one of the policies being introduced by AOT's acting president Serirat Prasutanond, which he revealed in an address at the combined Incentive Travel & Conventions, Meetings Asia and Corporate Travel World Conferences in Bangkok.

He said the first two years for Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok had been a time for problem solving and improving amenities, particularly the pressing concern about lack of toilets. An extra 104 toilets had been completed, bringing the total to 1569.

Light and temperatures within the passenger terminal had also been improved, as well as transportation issues. A One-Stop Service had been introduced to deal with complaints.

"We are also negotiating with the Immigration Service for more officers at the airport to process foreign visitors," said Prasutanond, citing user satisfaction, safety and a rearrangement of the service area at the international arrivals hall so passengers would have "no disturbance from gangsters".

He said AOT would also appreciate low-cost airlines moving to Don Mueang Airport (Bangkok's former international airport).

Prasutanond said the second stage of the Suvarnabhumi Airport development would cost US$2.3 million. It was "rather certain" the airport would reach full capacity of serving 45 million passengers a year by 2011, with its runways servicing up to 64 flights an hour in peak periods. The second-phase development would boost the airport's capacity to 60 million passengers a year and include a third runway, a midfield satellite terminal, a linking tunnel and passenger transport system, expansion of the passenger terminal, an extra car-park and a public utility system.

AOT planned to earn more from non-aeronautical activities, such as co-operating with the private sector to develop an airport business centre. Seven projects are planned to be implemented before 2025 - a 50,000sq.m. convention centre, an export trade exhibition centre, office buildings, community shopping malls, entertainment venues, a 3.5-star hotel and a hospital and health-care amenities.

"We have 18 months to choose a developer," said Prasutanond. Project priorities would depend on the developer.

There were six strategies to make Suvarnabhumi Airport a "cosy airport", including security, services, co-operation with airlines, government units and businesses, commercial activities and "service and attitude". AOT plans to use Don Mueang International Airport for charter flights, private jets, test flights and a maintenance centre.

Speaking of regional airports, Prasutanond said development plans for Chiang Mai International Airport would help cut pollution, and an export warehouse would be developed.

An international aviation training institute would be set up at Chiang Rai International Airport as well as a river and truck terminal and logistics centre.

A private jet terminal is "under study" for Phuket International Airport, where a sea port was being established, and an express way transportation centre would be set up at Hat Yai International Airport.

Asked by a journalist how it had been possible for protesters to close international airport twice in Thailand, Prasutnond said the airport union had negotiated with the chief of the protesters not to use the airports for protests as it was not good for tourism.

In response to another question, he said the airport train link had been delayed until May or June. "It is not being built by AOT, but we are trying to rush the program".
Meanwhile, Prasutnond said a Thailand frequent flyer card was being introduced, initially for Thai passport holders. It would eventually cover foreign frequent visitors.

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