Poor service quality dogs airport ranking
Inferior service quality and poor management means that Suvarnabhumi airport is unlikely to be placed among the world's top airports, a seminar was told Thursday.
The event was held jointly on Thursday by the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand (ACT), Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI), Ministry of Tourism and Sports as well as Federation of Thai Industries in Bangkok, on the topic of whether it would be possible for Suvarnabhumi airport to become one of the world's top three airports.
Deunden Nikomborirak, the TDRI's research director, said there is no competition in the airport business and the quality of airport services has no implications for the Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT)'s earnings, which currently grow on the back of rising tourism.
Consequently, AoT has no incentive to pay attention to service quality, she added.
According to Ms Deunden, Suvarnabhumi airport received only three out of five stars from passengers' reviews due to the long queues at the immigration counters, insufficient numbers of chairs and electric outlets, a shortage of staff who can speak English, as well as the poor quality of the flight information displays, she said.
"These issues are not difficult to solve, so I do not understand why it has not been addressed," said Ms Deunden.
She said the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) and the Finance Ministry as AoT's major shareholder should step in to supervise the airport directly.
She said the CAAT must clearly lay out the standard threshold that airports are required to follow, and frequent checks must be carried out.
"If the service quality is still ignored, the airport's opportunity to become one of the top three airports would be only a pipe dream," Ms Deunden said.
Suvarnabhumi airport is ranked the 36th airport in the world, according to airport rating company Skytrax, said Ittirit Kinglake, the Tourism Council Of Thailand's president.
Singapore's Changi Airport is ranked first as it provides more facilities for passengers, including cinemas, swimming pools, game rooms and flower displays, he said adding the AoT should not be satisfied with the provision of basic services.
Government anti-corruption committee member and ex-AoT board member Tortrakul Yomnak expressed his disapproval of the AoT's plan to build Suvarnabhumi airport's second terminal.
He said academics, architects and engineers had agreed that it is impossible for the facility to serve 30 million more passengers, as claimed by the AoT, since no more aircraft parking bays will be built.
The 42-billion-baht terminal will be placed adjacent to the existing passenger terminal, on its northeastern side.
The plan differs from its original master plan, which was drafted in 1993, which covered only two terminals -- the existing northern terminal and another southern terminal, identical to the existing one.
Samart Ratchapolsitte, one of the master-plan drafters, said he believed Suvarnabhumi could become one of the top three airports if the AoT follows the original master plan.
"This will not happen if it continues to press ahead with the new project," said Mr Samart.
Meanwhile, AoT president Nitinai Sirismatthakarn said the construction of Terminal 2 is crucial as it will solve problems at the airport.
"We will certainly be better when the new and spacious terminal is finished," he told the Bangkok Post.
"We can [be among the top airports of the world] when the supply matches the demand," he said referring to passenger numbers and the airport's capacity.
He said the current terminal has a capacity to handle 45 million people annually, but 63 million people pass through the airport each year, with the number of passengers increasing by 8% each year.
The airport's existing parking bays can accommodate up to 90 million people annually. As such, there is no need to build more, he said.
He said construction of Suvarnabhumi airport's second terminal is not a departure from the master plan, as the construction of a new terminal to expand the airport's capacity is detailed in the original master plan.