Airline suggests facilities upgrade to reach hub status
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Airline suggests facilities upgrade to reach hub status

Travellers wait for immigration at Suvarnabhumi airport during the Lunar New Year festival in February. (Photo: Somchai Poomlard)
Travellers wait for immigration at Suvarnabhumi airport during the Lunar New Year festival in February. (Photo: Somchai Poomlard)

If Thailand wants to achieve its goal of becoming a regional aviation hub, international airlines recommend facilities development at key airports, serving more than flight services, in addition to seamless transport between airports and inner cities.

The Thai government wants airports in Thailand to transport 150 million passengers per year by 2030.

Egaluk Ngiwprom, Southeast Asia marketing manager of Spring Airlines, said this is an ambitious target, but many facets need improvement.

Before they increase flights, airlines would consider efficient connections between an airport and cities or major destinations, said Mr Egaluk.

He said while regional airports such as Chiang Rai and U-tapao have potential to lure international flights, the lack of transport from the airport hamper their appeal.

"We are concerned about the readiness of transport facilities, as travel following the pandemic has shifted to independent visitors, who have different demands than tour groups" said Mr Egaluk.

As Spring Airlines relocates its operations to the new SAT-1 building at Suvarnabhumi airport, he said this building is inconvenient for tourists looking for shopping and dining options while waiting for their flights.

Suvarnabhumi airport still has only one main terminal, which is already congested, unlike Changi Airport in Singapore that has four terminals with easy connections to each building, said Mr Egaluk.

Changi also has movie theatres, malls, play areas for kids and a variety of waiting areas.

He said authorities must also improve the immigration process to reduce congestion, using biometrics solutions similar to what Singapore offers.

If the government wants to lure flights to second-tier tourism areas, it should offer incentives such as reduced landing or parking fees, as well as promote the tourism attractions in those areas, said Mr Egaluk.

"Airport taxes and other fees, such as landing and parking fees, are not proportional to the level of services," he said.

Another area where Thailand could improve is ground handling services, allowing more service providers to improve quality, said Egaluk.

Spring Airlines offers more than 80 weekly flights from China to four airports in Thailand, less than the 120 weekly flights operated prior to the pandemic.

Saranya Boonyawattana, executive vice-president of corporate strategy at Airports of Thailand Plc, said the company provides an incentive for new routes between 2023 to 2025, offering a 95% discount on the landing fee, parking fee and boarding bridge charges in the first year, followed by a 75% discount in the second and third year.

On Tuesday 20 international airlines were invited to join the "Air-mazing Thailand: Amazing Airline Familiarisation Trip" hosted by the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

The airlines are invited to inspect regional airports with potential to operate new flights, including U-tapao, Surat Thani, Krabi and Chiang Mai during a four-day trip.

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