The Transport Ministry is seeking the National Economic and Social Development Council's nod to proceed with the northern expansion of Suvarnabhumi airport, which the council had previously said should take place after the western and eastern expansion projects have been completed.
Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob said the ministry will seek a meeting with the NESDC to discuss its plan to carry out all three expansion projects simultaneously, in order to better prepare the country's main aviation hub for the much-anticipated jump in air travel demand.
Mr Saksayam said he has asked Chayathan Promsorn, permanent-secretary for transport, to hold talks with the NESDC over the expansion schemes and other transport projects which need its approval before they are submitted to the cabinet.
He said there are concerns that Suvarnabhumi airport may not be able to cope with the increased number of travellers if the demand for air travel rebounds sharply after the country reopens to mass tourism.
The projects, which will see three passengers terminals built, will increase the airport's passenger handling capacity by 60 million passengers annually. Before the pandemic halted air travel, Suvarnabhumi airport regularly saw more than 45 million people pass through its terminals each year.
"Due to low air traffic, the NESDC believes construction of the East and West expansion projects won't affect passenger services, but since these two projects are located next to the main terminal, there will be some impact on operations," Mr Saksayam said.
With the completion of the airport's third runway, Suvarnabhumi will be able to handle 90 million passengers per year, which underlines the need for the simultaneous development of all three expansion schemes, he said, before adding Thailand is predicted to see up to 213 million air passengers in 2031.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) will work closely with agencies concerned to anticipate passenger growth, said the minister.
Mr Saksayam also said it is possible that global aviation will return to pre-pandemic levels in a year, instead of two years as predicted by some analysts.
He said the ministry is preparing for the return of international travellers on Nov 1 to ensure the ease of travel and the health of tourists.
According to Mr Saksayam, the ministry plans to have AoT manage three more domestic airports, which are now operated by the Department of Airports (DoA). The proposal will be submitted to the cabinet in December.
The ministry will transfer the management of Krabi, Udon Thani and Buri Ram airports to the AoT to help drive tourism growth in the three provinces. AoT currently oversees six international airports, while the DoA operates 29 domestic airports.