Airport transfers hit turbulence

Airport transfers hit turbulence

Buriram airport is a new inclusion in the Airports of Thailand's takeover and upgrade plans. (Photo from Buriram airport Facebook account)
Buriram airport is a new inclusion in the Airports of Thailand's takeover and upgrade plans. (Photo from Buriram airport Facebook account)

The proposed management transfer of four provincial airports to the Airports of Thailand (AoT) has hit a snag with talks under way to sort out the legal wrangle over the next fortnight, says the Transport Ministry.

Airports in Udon Thani, Krabi, Chumphon and Buri Ram, currently run by the Department of Airports (DoA), will be transferred under the measure.

Chayatham Phromsorn, permanent secretary for transport, said the ministry has been preparing the paperwork for the change, but vital details still need to be ironed out.

The details include the laws and regulations governing the transfer of assets between the DoA and the AoT as well as the criteria to be applied for appraising the assets earmarked for the transfer.

The four airports are located on public land owned by the Treasury Department, according to the permanent secretary.

AoT president Nitinai Sirismatthakarn said the transfer deal has not been sealed.

He said the AoT, a public company, is barred by law from accepting assets belonging to the state. In the case of the airports, their land is owned by the Treasury Department which is a state agency.

However, the airport transfer may be made possible if the AoT were to lease the airport land from the Treasury Department and take over the management from the DoA, Mr Nitinai said.

A joint venture may be set up between the AoT and the DoA to lease the airport land. Mr Nitinai said he expected the AoT will take two weeks to study the issue before consulting the Transport Ministry, which makes the final decision.

He said another matter concerns which agency -- the DoA or the Treasury Department -- the rent will be paid to. A source in the DoA said the management transfer of the airports has met with opposition within the department over fears it will drive down the department's revenue.

Also, if the AoT assumed the management, the passenger service charge to be levied at the airports would be increased as, at present, DoA-operated airports charge a lower rate.

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