New airspace plan 'will double flights'
Thailand's airspace capacity will double from one million to two million flights per year if it successfully introduces a new one-way aircraft route plan in three years' time, the new Aeronautical Radio of Thailand Ltd (Aerothai) president Somnuk Rongthong says.
Speaking to the media on Wednesday, he said Thailand has been using several overlapping lanes in its airspace, which means flights going in opposite directions have to share airspace simultaneously by travelling at different altitudes. This has led to numerous delays because each plane has to wait for the previous aircraft to pass to a safe distance first.
"What is needed is a new one-way route system, similar to a regional super-highway, where each one-way route is separated into general directions for easier management," Mr Somnuk said. "Combined with better coordination among all parties, flights will pass by more efficiently."
He said this planned system would involve planes travelling to Thailand's regions -- such as the North or Northeast -- using a single, large one-way route, and branching off the main route to their specific destinations.
"Instead of having one lane in airspace for flights going in both directions, there should be one general lane for each direction," he said. "Airlines will welcome such a system once it is approved, since they are regularly fined for leaving airports late or arriving at airports off-schedule."
Accordingly, the country's airspace is in urgent need of reorganisation, following continuous delays in flight departure and arrival times combined with higher tourist numbers every year.
Mr Somnuk said Thailand currently handles around one million flights per year. According to Aerothai the country sees an average of 2,600 flights per day, including domestic, international, and flights which pass through Thai airspace.
"With our present airspace management system, we are barely able to handle the one million flights annually we currently do," he said. "Countries like Britain and Germany, which have far less airspace than we do, are able to comfortably handle up to three million flights a year on average, so we know a higher capacity is definitely possible on our part." He said airspace is currently shared between airlines and the air force, the latter's airspace can only be accessed by commercial planes on holidays or for special reasons.