IATA urges swift airport upgrades

IATA urges swift airport upgrades

Arkhom gripes over 'slow' Suvarnabhumi

Flashback, September 2016: Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha presided over the ground-breaking ceremony at Suvarnabhumi airport's second phase. (Photo by Krit Promsaka na Sakolnakorn)
Flashback, September 2016: Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha presided over the ground-breaking ceremony at Suvarnabhumi airport's second phase. (Photo by Krit Promsaka na Sakolnakorn)

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) wants Thailand to speed up efforts to upgrade its airports, especially Suvarnabhumi airport, to make sure they better serve the soaring number of air travellers in the next 20 years.

Though Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT) has already come up with plans for the second-phase expansion of Suvarnabhumi airport, progress "is very slow", Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said Monday after talks with IATA executives.

He did not elaborate on the hurdles but said given the information provided by the IATA it is clear Thailand needs to take swift action.

Suvarnabhumi is not the only airport that needs development. Other airports, including those supervised by the Department of Aviation, must also move in the same direction to provide better facilities and services, he said.

Under the AoT's projects to upgrade Suvarnbhumi airport, there will be a new terminal, together with a new runway, to accommodate up to 60 million people per year and to ease air traffic congestion.

The airport, which opened in 2006, was originally designed to serve only 45 million travellers a year, but the rapid growth of the aviation industry has proven this capacity is not enough.

According to the IATA, the Asia-Pacific showed the strongest growth in passenger traffic in March compared with all other regions. Asia-Pacific demand, measured in revenue passenger kilometres, in March jumped 10.7% year-on-year.

"Asia-Pacific aviation, especially Thailand's, is growing very fast, so it [the IATA] wants Thailand to increase its airports' carrying capacity," Mr Arkhom said, pointing to the IATA's suggestion, which was made during the four-day 30th IATA Group Handling Conference in Bangkok, which will end tomorrow.

"The IATA also wants to see airport officials work faster," Mr Arkhom said, emphasising new technology is needed for immigration police to work more effectively and smoothly.

The IATA's suggestions are based on its latest estimate that Thailand will become one of the world's top 10 tourist destinations and aviation markets within 20 years, so airports, which are gates to the country, must be developed, the minister said.

Moves to improve airport facilities as well as customs services and immigration work must be undertaken seriously because "it may even take less than 20 years" to see Thailand in the top 10, he said. He also wants to see aviation safety develop in parallel with airport upgrades.

Thailand is currently following advice given by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), which on June 18, 2015 red-flagged the country over its failure to fix shortcomings in its aviation industry.

The shortcomings centred on failures to meet aviation safety standards in regards to regulating aviation businesses and granting air operator certificates (AOCs).

Thai-registered airlines, including national flag carrier Thai Airways International (THAI), have been, as a result, inspected for the re-issuing of AOCs, he said.

The same process is being carried out for Thai Smile Airways, a subsidiary of THAI, to ensure it can operate its international routes.

Mr Arkhom denied a report that Thai Smile may not get an AOC within the deadline of June 30, saying its fleet of aircraft is not large so inspections and other procedures should not take too much time.

"Thai Smile has only 20 planes," he said, comparing it with THAI which has already got its AOC though it has more aircraft and thus more complications in solving problems.

What Mr Arkhom expects from the current situation of Thai Smile is that it "must fix its problems in time".


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