Suvarnabhumi Airport expects to welcome more than 50 million passengers this year. With the upward trend expected to continue in the future, AOT sees it necessary to start the expansion as soon as possible so it can handle 60 million passengers by 2017. Lookeast interviews Somchai Sawasdeepon.
Last month, Suvarnabhumi Airport celebrated its sixth year. To commemorate the event, and to signal its consistent support to the Thai industries, the airport’s Passenger Terminal building was festively decorated with world-famous Thai native orchids, including the Queen Sirikit Catlleya and Phalaenopsis Princess Chulabhorn. Furthermore, memorable souvenirs of Thai handicrafts were handed out at special display booths for passengers to take home during the day. But beyond the festive activities, as Somchai Sawasdeepon, general manager of Suvarnabhumi Airport emphasized, the momentous occasion marks the important role the airport plays in the country’s economy and world stature.
Work on the Suvarnabhumi Airport began in 2002 and was completed in 2006, with full operations commencing Sept. 28 of that same year. The Terminal Complex consists of a Passenger Terminal building, with six connecting Concourses (A–G), and a total area of 563,000sqm, capable of serving up to 45 million passengers annually. There are many airport service facilities within the airport compound (area totaling around 3,200 hectare), including (custom) Free Zone and cargo area capable of servicing up to three million tons of cargo, airport operations and various airline office buildings, car parking buildings/lots, etc.
Somchai said that in its first year, Suvarnabhumi Airport served 41 million passengers and after five years of operations, this number has reached 48 million annual passengers – exceeding its capacity by three million. “For 2012, Suvarnabhumi Airport has already served more than 36 million in the first eight months (January–August), while expecting a total figure of around 52 million passengers by year’s end,” he said.
Current figures shows around 20 percent of all passengers at Suvarnabhumi Airport are transfer passengers, amounting to about 20,000 transfer-baggage per day. Somchai said that in the light of this fact, Suvarnabhumi Airport has decided to build a new Transfer Baggage Terminal to speed up the baggage transfer process. “The new Terminal will be a two-storey building, situated above the South Airside Tunnel between Concourses C, D and E,” he said. “The building will have a total area of around 12,000 sqm; equipped with baggage sorting area, operations room and engine room. The construction began in July of this year and should take around 18 months to complete.”
Somchai pointed out that the addition of the Transfer Baggage Terminal should speed up the baggage transfer process by 15 minutes, to an average of 60 minutes instead of the current 75 minutes. The new system will have the ability to transfer 66 luggages per minute. “This will allow Suvarnabhumi Airport to be more competitive with other hub airports in the region,” he said.
Somchai also revealed that Suvarnabhumi Airport has started implementing a new international departure security screening checkpoint as well as new automatic passport control channels.
In an effort to continuously keep the airport in tiptop shape physically, rigid maintenance and repair work has been ongoing. Just recently, in line with the Suvarnabhumi Airport Development, it undertook the repair of 1,620 meters of the northern end of East Runway. The repair work was completed in August.
On the current issue regarding passenger capacity, Somchai said the Airports of Thailand Plc (AOT), operator of Suvarnabhumi Airport, is dealing with the situation by requesting with low-cost carriers (LCC) and Point-to-Point airline operators to voluntarily move their operations to Bangkok’s former main airport, Don Mueang International, to ease congestion at Suvarnabhumi.
“Thus far, AirAsia Airline has agreed to do so, starting Oct. 1, and AOT expects a few other LCC to follow shortly,” he reveals. “The movement of AirAsia alone will already help ease congestion at Suvarnabhumi by reducing the number of annual passengers by more than eight million in the coming years while Suvarnabhumi Airport is expanding in accordance to the Development Plan Phase 2.”
Don Mueang International Airport (DMK) consists of two international terminals and one domestic terminal and has a total capacity to serve 36.5 million annual passengers. “Since the move of commercial flight service to Suvarnabhumi Airport in 2008, DMK remains in operations for General Aviation, State Aircraft, Military Aircraft, Government Aircraft, Pure Technical Landing, and reopened for commercial flight service in March 2009, with the usage of only the Domestic Terminal,” Somchai continues.” Since August 2011, DMK moved its commercial flight services to the larger International Terminal 1, which has capacity to serve up to 16.5 million annual passengers. DMK has two runways (the East and the West Runway) and 101 aircraft aprons, with 35 aerobridges and 66 remote parking bays.
Somchai emphasized that Suvarnabhumi Airport pays great importance for it the environment and its surroundings. “The airport continuously employs various programs and strategies such as Energy Conservation Initiatives (for the Passenger Terminal and Airport Operations buildings), regular checks of the quality of air and measures to minimize and control air pollution, waste water management and (closed) sewage system – whereby waste water are circulated within the airport and reused, for example, to water the fields and plants around the airport compound and coolant system for the air conditioning in the Passenger Terminal building, etc.,” he said.
He added that there are also various annual Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs such as seminars for teachers of local schools (on the subject of Airport Management at Suvarnabhumi Airport), Suvarnabhumi Airport Youth Camps (for primary and secondary students), student competition to award scholarships, textbook donations, Suvarnabhumi Fair to raise additional income for local communities and to promote local products, planting of trees in local areas, among many others.
This year, Suvarnabhumi Airport expects to welcome more than 50 million passengers and with this upward trend expected to continue in the future, AOT sees it necessary to commence the airport’s expansion as soon as possible so it can handle a capacity 60 million passengers by 2017.