AoT urges wide-body use to save flight slots

AoT urges wide-body use to save flight slots

Don Mueang to hit peak capacity in 2020

Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT) wants airlines at Bangkok's Don Mueang International Airport to switch to wide-body aircraft in a bid to ease congestion at the low-cost carriers (LCC) hub.

"Single-aisle jets used by LCCs can carry between 100-200 passengers per flight, while wide-body jets can carry about 300 passengers each time the plane takes off," said deputy general manager of Don Mueang airport, Flying Officer Sumpun Kutranon, on Sunday.

The request comes as AoT struggles to manage the growing congestion at Don Mueang airport, which serves as Bangkok's second airport.

"This year, [Don Mueang] has reached its full capacity of 52 flights per hour, which equals to about 700-800 flights per day, and it isn't possible to expand or build another runway," he said.

"If nothing is done to address the problem, it will create a bottleneck and cause further flight delays."

Don Mueang airport is expected to reach its maximum passenger handling capacity of 40 million people by the end of the year. The airport is forecast to welcome some 41 million passengers next year, and 45 million passengers in 2023.

"However, it is clear that the airport's facilities are inadequate, as it was only designed to serve 30 million passengers each year," Flg Off Sumpun said.

In order to improve passengers' experiences at Don Mueang airport, AoT has expanded the floor space for visitors to apply for visa-on-arrival from 639 square metres to 900 sq m, and increased the number of officers at immigration checkpoints to 170.

AoT has also increased the number of immigration checkpoints for arriving passengers from 39 to 51. The number of immigration checkpoints for departing passengers has also increased from 36 to 40.

"With the changes, the entire immigration procedure is now expected to take about 25 seconds per passenger," he said.

In a related development, the AoT plans to build a three-kilometre electric monorail link to connect Don Mueang airport with the Bangkok Transit System (BTS) Green Line, Flg Off Sumpun said.

He said the monorail, which will cost about 3 billion baht, is a part of a bigger plan to make Don Mueang airport a transport hub to link China with Bangkok and the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC).

AoT has already sponsored a feasibility study for monorail, which is expected to be completed by March next year, and it expects to seek approval for the project before the end of next year.

Flg Off Sumpun said the AoT is currently looking at two possible sites along the BTS Green Line to build the monorail link -- Saphan Mai, or Air Force Museum station.

In the future, Don Mueang airport will also be connected to the high-speed train project linking U Tapao, Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports, the Bangkok-Nong Khai-Laos-Kunming high-speed train and the State Railway of Thailand's Red Line.

When asked about Don Mueang airport's expansion scheme, Flg Off Sumpun said the third phase of the project, which is valued at 39 billion baht, has entered the design stage.

"The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is being reviewed, and AoT is drafting a budget proposal," he said.

If the third phase of the expansion is green-lighted, then construction will begin some time between 2020 and 2025, added Flg Officer Sumpun.

The Transport Ministry will ask the cabinet to approve the project next month.

"If approved, bidding for construction is expected to be called in late this year or early next year," said Flg Off Sumpun, who said the third phase of the project will increase Don Mueang airport's passenger handling capacity to 40 million passengers a year -- up from 30 million at present.

The construction work will include the demolition of the old domestic passenger terminal to make way for the new "Terminal 3", which has the capacity to handle up to 18 million international passengers per year.

"Both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 will also be upgraded to handle 22 million domestic passengers per year," said Flg Off Sumpun.

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