Bangkok-Don Muang: To be or not to be international


When it opened in September 2006, Airports Of Thailand authorities (AOT) advertised Bangkok’s brand new airport in Suvarnabhumi as the “Pride of Thailand.” As the glitzy facility started its operation, the old airport at Don Muang closed in parallel its doors to regular civil aviation. At the farewell party, a saddened Don Muang general manager confessed to consider the decision as a non–sense taken under political pressure.

However, Suvarnabhumi troubles have since helped to revive the moribund airport. Last February, Thailand’s government revised its position announcing to look for the reopening of Don Muang airport in a way to decongest Suvarnabhumi airport. Once more, hefty discussions occurred to see if Don Muang should welcome domestic, regional or only low cost airlines traffic. At time, Thai AirAsia was lobbying the Ministry of Transport to turn Don Muang into Bangkok’s low cost airlines’ base.

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Finally, Don Muang was just reopened for domestic flights which translated into the transfer of hundred of flights from Thai Airways, Nok Air and One Two Go.

Another six months later authorities now speak to open Don Muang to international traffic as Suvarnabhumi passengers traffic will approach 41 million this year.

Suvarnabhumi was designed for 45 million passengers, a number likely to be reached by the end of next year. According to Thai newspaper Bangkok Post, the reactivation of Don Muang will in fact help o delay the airport’s expansion. In fact, AOT seems to lack now the finances to expand the new airport. The move would push back the construction of a second terminal by at least five years.

According to AOT vice president Kulya Pakakrong, the airport authority has only US$450 million in cash but would need close to US$2 billion to develop a planned satellite for 12 million additional passengers. The main user should be Aisa’s largest low cost carrier AirAsia. The airline transported during the FY 2006-07 over 3.3 million passengers. However, according to Tassapon Bijleveld, CEO of Thai AirAsia, the airline would not move to Don Muang airport except if the airline will secure “an excellent financial deal.”