3 airports upgrading to regional hubs
AoT adds Krabi, Buri Ram, Udon Thani
Krabi, Buri Ram and Udon Thani airports are being upgraded to regional hubs, which will help sharpen Thailand's competitive edge in international aviation, according to Airports of Thailand (AoT).
AoT president Nitinai Sirismatthakarn said Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob aims to make Thailand an international aviation hub and the three airports will play a major role in achieving this.
Currently, AoT operates six airports and is seeking to manage Krabi, Buri Ram and Udon Thani airports which are currently under the supervision of the Department of Airports (DoA).
The management transfer plan, which has been in the pipeline since 2018, is likely to be submitted to the cabinet next month.
Besides Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports, AoT has Chiang Mai and Phuket airports as regional hubs, which face passenger and air traffic congestion, Mr Nitinai said.
AoT sees an opportunity in upgrading Udon Thani airport in the upper northeast as a gateway to Laos and Buri Ram airport in the lower northeast as a gateway to Cambodia. Krabi airport will strengthen the southern hub and accommodate a rise in air traffic after the Covid-19 crisis ends, he said.
"The country will benefit because it will remove limitations on upgrading the industry and save on state budget. Air passengers will benefit due to seamless operations without having to fly to Bangkok for connecting flights," he said.
The AoT president said the DoA does not stand to lose from the management transfer because AoT will compensate the department for losing the three airports, which give it a steady income.
Mr Saksayam said the ministry expects Krabi and Udon Thani airports to be transferred to AoT by August, with Buri Ram airport following in September.
"It will reduce flight congestion at Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi while boosting the country's competitiveness in the aviation industry," said Mr Saksayam.
Meanwhile, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has welcomed the increasing momentum towards re-opening borders and relaxing travel restrictions, as Covid-19 moves into the endemic phase.
An IATA survey of travel restrictions on the world's top 50 air travel markets, comprising 88% of international demand in 2019 as measured by revenue passenger kilometres, revealed growing access available to vaccinated travellers.
Some 25 markets representing 38% of 2019 international demand are open to vaccinated travellers without quarantine measures or testing requirements -- up from 18 markets (28% of 2019 international demand) in mid-February.
The survey also showed that 38 markets representing 65% of 2019 international demand are open to vaccinated travellers with no quarantine requirements -- up from 28 markets (50% of 2019 international demand) in mid-February.
Repeated passenger surveys conducted by the IATA during the pandemic showed that testing and especially quarantines were major barriers to travel.
The regional variations in the degree of openness among the markets are stark with travel in Asia remaining heavily compromised by Covid-19 restrictions. Traffic in Asia-Pacific remained at minus 88%.