Thai Airways airport service sloppy, says transport minister

Thai Airways airport service sloppy, says transport minister

Threatens to terminate ground service contract if it does not improve

Thai Airways planes at Suvarnabhumi airport. (Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
Thai Airways planes at Suvarnabhumi airport. (Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

Transport Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit on Tuesday threatened to terminate a contract with Thai Airways International (THAI) unless it improves the quality of its ground service at Suvarnabhumi airport.

Speaking after a meeting with airport service operators, Mr Suriya said the ministry had received complaints about the poor quality of the ground service provided by several airlines and businesses.

In response, a meeting was convened with two operators - THAI Ground and Bangkok Flight Services.   

Mr Suriya said the discussions showed the service quality problem was due to inadequate equipment and a lack of qualified staff due to a high turnover rate.

He instructed the two operators to shape up or face having their contracts terminated early - especially Thai Airways, which still has 12 years remaining on it.

As a short-term measure, Airports of Thailand (AOT) Ground Aviation Services will be hired to provide ground service as the two operators work to improve their service quality, said Mr Suriya.

"The ministry will assess the operation on a monthly basis. Thai has 12 years to go before its contract expires and that can be terminated if the firm is unable to deliver the service as required," he said.

He said airlines were advised to switch to the SAT-1 terminal during repair work on the other taxiways, but they were reluctant to do so due to concerns about the luggage-handling system there.

The minister said airport management, especially ground service and luggage handling, must be improved if Thailand is to welcome more passengers and flights and achieve its goal of becoming the region's aviation hub.

AOT director Kirati Kijmanawat said the agency is in the process of hiring a third operator of ground services to support an expected increase in flights at the airport, with a round of bidding tentatively scheduled for late April. It would be about three months before the new operator is selected.

He said the number of flights currently stands at 1,000 per day, about a 20% increase from November, following the implementation of the visa-exemption scheme for some countries. He insisted the SAT-1 terminal is capable of handling 400 flights per day. It currently serves just 82 flights.

The SAT-1 terminal, which was officially launched last September, has 28 aircraft parking bays and can handle 15 million passengers per year.

Mr Suriya on Tuesday also distanced the ministry from any perceived involvement in the national carrier's plan to procure 45 Boeing 787 jets, saying the airline was operating under a rehabilitation plan.

He said the ministry has some concerns about the procurement but it has no supervision over the airline.

"On social media people say the ministry authorised the procurement. That is not true. If I had that authority, I would put a brake on it to assess if the project was worth investing in," he said.

Early this month, the State Enterprise Policy Office said the national flag carrier's financial performance was improving under the rehabilitation programme.

The Central Bankruptcy Court approved a recovery plan in September 2020, with THAI’s total liabilities amounting to 200 billion baht as of Sept 30, 2020. 

In the second quarter of 2023, the carrier posted a profit of nearly 2.3 billion baht, a 20-year high, up 171% year-on-year.

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