Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT) says it will begin charging each air passenger 35 baht flying into and out of its six international airports from Dec 1 to cover the costs of an advanced passenger background check system.
However, the Airline Operations Committee (AOC) has complained that airlines aren't ready for the change as they have already sold a number of advance international flight tickets.
It has urged the AoT to consider postponing the plan for three months to allow sufficient time for the airlines to prepare.
The introduction of the Advance Passenger Processing System (APPS) at the six airports is expected to take about three months while testing will take a further month, AoT chairman Nitinai Sirismatthakarn said.
The system will boost airport security by screening each passenger more closely than the present system allows.
The APPS will allow customs officials, airport and airline staff and immigration police to obtain the profiles of passengers from their countries of origin. They will be able to check if passengers are blacklisted or banned from leaving a country.
Authorities will share passenger information and ordinary passengers whose profiles are clean can pass immigration checks faster.
Wichai Boonyu, acting deputy AoT chairman, said the six airports to be equipped with the APPS are Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Hat Yai in Songkhla and Mae Fa Luang in Chiang Rai.
The APPS fee will apply to international passengers arriving and departing from the airports, as well as transfer and transit passengers, he said.
The 2S Consortium — consisting of Somapa Information Technology Plc and Samart Comtech Co — won AoT approval to install and operate the APPS for five years, said Mr Nitinai. The government's committee monitoring and auditing expenditure in the public sector had also approved the APPS project, he said.
Airlines will be responsible for collecting the 35 baht additional charge, which will be incorporated into the air ticket price, Mr Nitinai said. The AoT would hold talks with airlines that have sold advance tickets prior to the AoT's announcement to find the most appropriate timing for implementing the charge, he said.
AOC chairman Louise Moser Jr said talks with the airlines has yet to start, even though he had heard the charge will take effect on Dec 1.
It would be impossible for airlines to shoulder all the passenger screening fees for passengers who had already paid for their tickets, he said. Collecting the additional fee from passengers at check-in could lead to other difficulties and so was not an option, he said.
The AOC will ask request the AoT to postpone the APPS fee for 90 days from Dec 1, Mr Louise said.
Adding the APPS fee into ticket fares could not be implemented immediately as airlines will have to wait for approval from the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Thai Airways International and the AoT had submitted a request with the IATA and it should take about two months to get approval, he said.
The AOC and the AoT would have to hold talks over the issue, he said.
"Dec 1 was set as the first day to begin collecting the APPS fee because it was thought to be good timing given the time frame of the installation," Mr Louise said.