Airport 'urgently needs T2'

Don Mueang's traffic puts strain on facilities

The restoration of Terminal 2 (T2) at Don Mueang airport needs to begin shortly to catch up with traffic build-up at Bangkok's old airport, where facilities will soon be strained." The T2 revival plan must be executed in this fiscal year [starting last month] or else we would not be able to cope with incremental traffic," Somchai Sawasdeepon, acting president of Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT), warned.

A worker paints the Terminal 2 building at Don Mueang airport in late June. APICHIT JINAKUL

T2 should be up and running over the next two and a half years to augment Don Mueang's passenger handling capacity, now at 16.5 million a year after Terminal 1 (T1) was reopened as a fully functional international facility on Oct 1, according to Mr Somchai.

The AoT executive sees urgency in reviving T2 because T1's capacity would likely be used up in the next two years. Besides, T2 restoration works may be much more extensive and costly than T1's.

The combined passenger volume carried by the two major no-frills carriers at Don Mueang, AirAsia and Nok Air, is expected to ramp up to 14 million in the current fiscal year.

Traffic by Orient Thai, another budget airline, as well as charter and small airlines, would stretch T1 further.

The overcrowding at T1 will be quickened if another 10 international budget carriers agreed to shift their bases from Suvarnabhumi, Thailand's gateway airport, to Don Mueang as advocated by AoT.

T2 has been derelict since it was closed along with the entire Don Mueang airport in September 2006 as Suvarnabhumi took over its role as Bangkok's main airport.

Though the T2 building may look all right from the outside, Mr Somchai, an engineer by background, said: "T2 has been disintegrated with bits and pieces removed for use at other [AoT-operated] airports."

The baggage conveying systems at T2 were mostly gone and aerobridges were either removed or not in good order, he told the Bangkok Post.

However, he said it was too early to determine the exact scope of the works and budget required for the T2 restoration, pending further inspection.

The timeframe for T2 revival advocated by Mr Somchai is ahead of a plan made public by AoT in August this year.

The plan called for the restoration, including improving Pier 5, baggage carousels, telecommunication and infrastructure, to ensure it can process 22.5 million passengers a year, starting in 2016.

It is part of the plan to renovate Don Mueang in three stages over the next 10 years so that it can ultimately handle 66.5 million passengers a year in 2027.

The entire redevelopment is specifically geared towards making Don Mueang, which processed 36.5 million passengers a year before its Sept 2006 closure, an airport dedicated mainly to low-cost carriers serving point-to-point flights.

The acting AoT president's advocacy has already received early support from Transport Minister Chatchart Sittipan, who on Monday said he wanted to hasten the restoration of Don Mueang with T2 reopened next year.

Tassapon Bijleveld, chief executive of Thai AirAsia (TAA), had earlier urged the airport authority not to wait until T1's capacity is used up before going ahead with the T2 revival.

"Don't wait. It's better to have the capacity available ahead of time rather than trying to catch up with the traffic demand later on," he noted.

AoT expects a 61.30% leap in passenger traffic through Don Mueang to 40,000 a day in the six-month winter season starting on Oct 28, from 24,797 currently.

TAA targets passenger volumes of eight million this calendar year, rising to 10 million in 2013, growing roughly by 20% annually in the coming years.

Meanwhile, Nok Air has an ambitious growth plan by relaunching international services next year. It plans to expand its fleet over the next five years to include 40 aircraft, raising its passenger volume to over 14 million in 2017 from six million expected this year.

About the author

Writer: Boonsong Kositchotethana
Position: Deputy Editor Business