NCPO lukewarm to AoT's urban centre proposal

NCPO lukewarm to AoT's urban centre proposal

The multibillion-baht scheme proposed by Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT) to turn parts of its airports into urban centres has met with a tepid response from the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)

The junta regards the project, known as Airport City, as a real estate development venture that may distract AoT from its core mission of running airports.

"They don't seem to understand the concept behind it and view it as AoT venturing into a business it is not supposed to do and has no expertise in running professionally," said an AoT insider who asked to remain anonymous.

The NCPO has not been receptive to the explanation that the Airport City ventures are planned to be run by chosen professionals in retail development under a structure that has yet to be worked out, the source said.

The concept behind AoT's proposed Airport City project is not new but modelled on those at Hong Kong airport, South Korea's Incheon airport and Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 with its Gateway complex.

But there seems to be a certain degree of distrust regarding the former AoT executives who proposed the Airport City venture, as they are perceived to be linked to the ousted Yingluck Shinawatra government.

They are Sita Divari, who stepped down as AoT chairman in June, and Makin Petplai, who last week tendered his resignation as AoT president.

At least for the time being, the junta does not want the state-controlled airport operator to become involved in the project, which would initially turn plots of land within three of AoT's six airports into Airport Cities.

AoT estimates the Airport City development at Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang and Phuket airports would cost 36 billion baht.

The scheme is part of AoT's unprecedented push to capitalise on 3,192 rai of land under its purview into commercial zones to create extra revenue and lessen dependence on earnings from aeronautical operations.

AoT hopes the plan will boost its non-aeronautical revenue, derived mainly from retail space rental, to 60% from 40% at present.

The scheme is aimed at encouraging passengers to spend more time and money at airports by presenting them with a range of non-airport services, lifestyle choices and retail options.

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