Come Monday, the congestion at Suvarnabhumi airport will begin visibly to ease as AirAsia moves its entire passenger traffic to Don Mueang airport on the other side of the capital.
The low-cost carrier group will take about 10 million passengers a year with it to Bangkok's old airfield, thus reducing the expected passenger throughput at Suvarnabhumi next year to 44.3 million, slightly below Suvarnabhumi's designed passenger handling capacity of 45 million passengers a year.
In other words, Suvarnabhumi will be relieved of 180 take-offs and landings each day or 23,000-25,000 passengers a day, said Suvarnabhumi airport general manager Somchai Sawasdeepon.
Suvarnabhumi has faced overcrowding problems with passenger totals in the 11 months to August soaring to 48.32 million, with the projection at 52.6 million for the fiscal year ending this month.
Aircraft movements through Suvarnabhumi are expected to increase in parallel, with frequencies for this fiscal year shooting up 13.73% year-on-year to 301,477, according to figures released yesterday by Airports of Thailand (AoT).
But Mr Somchai cautioned that Suvarnabhumi would be operating beyond its capacity again by 2014, as traffic is likely to continue to grow.
Speaking at the sixth-anniversary celebrations for Suvarnabhumi yesterday, he said AoT has been working to improve the airport's efficiency in passenger and aircraft handling to address heavier traffic ahead of the airport expansion.
The efficiency improvement involves software and hardware for managing flight information systems, introduction of more self check-in kiosks, enlarging restrooms and removing airline sales offices to free up some 3,000 square metres of space at the front of the fourth-floor departures hall.
Mr Somchai noted the expansion of Suvarnabhumi, which will raise the airport's passenger handling capacity by 33% to 60 million passengers a year, has been accelerated by one year to the end of 2016 to cope with the rising traffic.
The long-delayed phase-2 project, requiring a capital outlay of 62.5 billion baht, calls for the construction of a satellite passenger terminal linked by an automated people mover.
The plan also includes the extension of the main passenger terminal and car park buildings.
Authorities are planning to reintroduce the construction of a third runway, which was originally featured in the phase-2 blueprint, as a separate undertaking due to the urgency of the overcrowding.
The Transport Ministry told AoT to complete the new runway, estimated to cost 13 billion baht, as soon as possible, although AoT said it will not be up and running until 2018.
Mr Somchai said AoT plans to turn Suvarnabhumi into one of the world's top-five most admired airports in the Airports Council International rankings next year for those handling more than 40 million passengers annually. Suvarnabhumi is seventh in this year's ranking.
About the author
- Writer: Boonsong Kositchotethana
Position: Deputy Editor Business