BANGKOK, Thailand (eTN) – Although the Thai government under Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej is currently struggling against defiant protesters, it still continues to secure Thailand’s air transport future. The government a week ago made two decisions regarding Thai Airways and Suvarnabhumi airport.

The Ministry of Transport is looking now to get the favorable advice from the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) for the acquisition of 65 new aircraft for Thai Airways that will be delivered over a ten-year period.

The investment is worth US$ 11.75 billion and will help Thai Airways to cut its fuel consumption thanks to more efficient aircraft. The investment program foresees the integration of 16 long-haul aircraft with a capacity of 350 to 500 passengers, 29 aircraft for mid-and long-haul purposes with a capacity of 250-300 aircraft and another 20 short-haul aircraft for 150 to 250 passengers. In parallel, Thai Airways would retire some 47 aircraft.

Thai Airways is likely to purchase rather lease the new aircraft in a bid to lower its cost, The Nation reported.

Thailand’s Ministry of Transport is also likely to give its blessing to a US$2.3 billion budget for the expansion of Suvarnabhumi airport’s second phase. It would include a midfield satellite as well as a third runway. The airport would then be able to grow its capacity to over 60 millions passengers per year. However, with growth projections running between 4.5 percent and 6.5 percent per year, Bangkok Suvarnabhumi would rapidly run again at capacity limits.

Once approved, the airport would start expansion work by the end of 2009 for a possible completion in 2012.

Meanwhile, Airports of Thailand, the country’s main airport operator, also announced it is to study the introduction of a relief package for airlines severely affected by the hike in fuel prices. The package might translate into reduced fees perceived on airport services and/or landing charges. Airlines would be able to save up to 15 percent of their current costs at Bangkok airports.