AoT airports set new record in passenger traffic
Thailand's six main airports saw robust growth in passenger traffic of 21.3% in 2015, setting a new record of just under 110 million.
Such impressive growth largely reflected the marked upturn in Thailand's tourism industry.
Aircraft movements -- take-offs and landings -- surged in tandem by 16.6% from the previous year to 727,750, according to figures from the Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT).
The growth momentum is expected to continue through 2016 with AoT, the state operator of the six airports, conservatively projecting an 11% increase in combined passenger throughput.
Such growth is partly made possible with the expansion at Bangkok's Don Mueang in Bangkok and Phuket airports.
Don Mueang's renovated terminal 2 is due to start full operation next month, ramping up its official passenger handling capacity to 30 million a year from 18.5 million.
Also next month, the long-delayed expansion of Phuket airport should be completed, doubling its annual passenger processing capacity to 12.5 million from the current 6.5 million.
Industry analysts believe passenger traffic through the six airports could grow more than what AoT had projected if its three flagship facilities -- Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang and Phuket -- had bigger capacity to cope with the demand from airlines facing difficulties securing flight slots.
While passenger traffic jumped dramatically, cargo pushed through the airports remained largely stagnant last year with a marginal 0.63% increase to 1.38 million tonnes, mirroring a slowdown in exports and sluggish global trade.
Last year, Don Mueang showed the strongest growth in passenger air traffic, not only in Thailand but in the region, as surging low-cost carrier traffic pushed the airport well beyond its limits.
Total passenger traffic through Don Mueang leaped 40.7% to 30.3 million, with international numbers jumping 53.1% to 9.17 million and domestic passengers growing 35.9% to 21.1 million.
Aircraft movements through the 102-year-old airport also rose dramatically by 29.8% to 224,074, comprising 158,804 domestic (up 26.2%) and 65,270 international (up 39.3%).
Suvarnabhumi, the gateway to Thailand, continued to account for the lion's share of air traffic, handling 52.9 million passengers last year, up by nearly 14% from the previous period in spite of its passenger capacity of 45 million a year.
International passengers passing through Suvarnabhumi grew 15.9% to 44.2 million, while the domestic volume edged up 4.87% to 8.68 million.
Aircraft movements through the 10-year-old airport showed a 9.50% increase to 317,066, consisting of 247,584 international (up 11%) and 69,482 (up 4.41%).
The overcrowded Phuket airport handled 12.9 million passengers, 12.8% more than 2014, with international numbers rising 8.27% to 6.95 million and domestic up 18.6% to 5.90 million. Aircraft movements grew 11.6% to 84,758, with 43,996 international (7.63%) and 40,762 domestic (up 16.1%).
Traffic at the three other AoT-operated airports -- Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Hat Yai --also showed double-digit growth in passenger traffic in 2014, consistent with the overall national pattern.
With market value of 544 billion baht as of noon on Monday, AoT overtook Siam Cement Plc (518 billion), making it No. 2 behind only PTT Plc (674 billion).
AoT shares closed down 5 baht to 373 baht in trade worth 800 million baht at noon on Monday.