Power crash a major flaw

Power crash a major flaw

The power outage at Krabi International Airport early this week which forced immigration authorities to let in about 2,000 travellers without properly vetting their personal data reveals an appalling lack of standards in operating an airport.

The good news is deputy national police chief in charge of security Pol Col Srivara Ransibrahmanakul assured the public that a follow-up check showed that no blacklisted people were allowed into the country during the mishap.

Still, the power outage which lasted more than six hours illustrates major flaws in the operation of Krabi airport, a busy gateway for business people and tourists, both local and international.

An airport is expected to be in operation 24 hours a day. The incident at Krabi airport is unthinkable. Indeed, it should never have been allowed to occur at all.

Krabi Immigration Bureau staff members on Wednesday had no choice but to light candles for illumination as they wrote down information about arriving passengers, more than 2,000 of them, on paper for emergency record-keeping, according to news reports.

Since power at the passenger terminal building was cut off from 9am to 3.30pm, immigration staff members could not access passenger's records stored electronically. They simply had to let all of them into the country first and hope to review the data later.

Passengers complained about the slow process, a lack of air-conditioning and professionalism on the part of the airport operator.

What is most appalling about the airport's misadventure is the power outage did not happen by accident.

The Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA) notified Krabi airport two days in advance that it would need to shut down power in the area for maintenance.

On that day, Krabi airport operators turned on its back-up generators. To their unpleasant surprise, they did not work.

The Krabi airport authorities apparently have no "plan C".

Once the back-up system failed, the management contacted the PEA, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand and businesses in the province as to whether they had large-capacity generators to lend.

The answer was "no".

That is why the airport was left blacked out for six hours, until power was restored once the PEA had completed its maintenance job.

The power failure has brought to light several things that went wrong with Krabi airport's operation.

Firstly, the airport management should not have adopted a wait-and-see attitude about its back-up system. Once they realised the situation required the alternative generators to be brought online, the machines should have been tested. It is unprofessional to be caught off-guard at the last minute when fixing is no longer possible.

Secondly, Krabi airport, like any prudent business operator, must have a detailed disaster relief plan that is ready to be implemented which will guarantee its operation can go on uninterrupted whatever happens.

Krabi airport director Attaporn Nuang-udom gave an interview after the event saying that management will rent generators in the future to prevent blackouts from happening again. This is one of many things he should have thought about and prepared for before the airport was plunged into darkness while the entire country was aglow in yet more aviation-related embarrassment.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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