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AirAsia confirms Don Mueang move

June 26, 2012

Both Thai AirAsia and AirAsia will relocate services to Don Mueang Airport, 1 October, in a move that should relieve traffic congestion at Suvarnabhumi Airport by around 10 million passengers a year.

They will join Nok Air, which moved back to Don Mueang last March, after flood damage repairs were completed. Under a government directive the airport will assume the role of a full international airport once more for both scheduled airlines and charters offering point-to-point services.

Yesterday, Thai AirAsia and Airports of Thailand executives announced that the country’s largest low-cost airline was ready to move to Don Mueang Airport. It follows a directive from Prime Minister to reactivate the airport to take pressure off Suvarnabhumi Airport. The main gateway to Thailand is already has already exceeded its capacity of 45 million passengers a year and an expansion project to enable the airport to handle up to 60 million passengers a year will not be completed until 2018.

Airports of Thailand chairman ACM, Sumet Photimanee, confirmed Bangkok would have two airports as a permanent solution and not as temporary measure while expansion was underway at Suvarnabhumi.

Thai AirAsia CEO, Tassapon Bijleveld, said the relocation to Don Mueang was permanent with no relocation options to Suvarnabhumi on the table.

“We have 24 aircraft now and three more will join the fleet by year-end. This year, we will carry 8 million passengers. In four years, our fleet will grow to 48 aircraft and serve 16 million passengers a year.

“ If we stay at Suvarnabhumi Airport our expansion alone will cause more congestion,” he said.

Mr Tassapon said relocation would cost from Bt60 to Bt80 million. However, the move to Don Mueang will help improve operation efficiency and save fuel costs wasted when waiting to take off, or stacked in a holding pattern waiting landing clearance. The delays landing can add 45 minutes to one hour to a flight.

“If we could save 5% of the current fuel bill, it will pay for the move,” he said. According to Thai AirAsia CEO, the airline pays around Bt5 billion monthly on fuel so if there is a reduction in air traffic congestion, it could save the airline as much as Bt250 million a month.

Thai AirAsia and its sisters, AirAsia and Indonesia AirAsia will also move to Don Mueang’s International Terminal 1, which can handle 16.5 million passengers annually.

It is understood AirAsia had hoped to gain control of an entire terminal. It was hoping to make Terminal 2 with annual capacity of 9 million as its exclusive base, but the subject was not given an airing at the press briefing.

Mr Tassapon admitted that during the first two months after the relocation, the carrier would lose some international passengers who were connecting to its services within Thailand. But it should gain more domestic passengers.

“We don’t provide check through service so passengers who want to connect to other flights have to give themselves three hours in between flights and that is the same as a transfer to Don Mueang Airport,” he said.

But it will add to the overall trip costs, as travellers will need to pay for a transfer from Suvarnabhumi Airport to Don Mueang a distance of 50 km and possibly costing Bt700 for a registered airport taxi.

To facilitate passengers who need to transfer between the two airports, AoT will organise shuttle buses and is discussing with the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority to offer more bus links. There are min-van services between the two airports, but they have mainly be used by airport staff who live in Don Mueang and need to commute to Suvarnabhumi Airport.

As a long-term solution, the government is also considering a proposed rail service to Don Mueang that would connect with the Airport Rail Link.

Besides Thai AirAsia and Orient Thai Airlines (moves 27 June), Airports of Thailand president, Anirut Thanomkulbutra said AoT is discussing moves with 14 airlines that use Suvarnabhumi. He declined to identify the airlines, but they are most likely charter airlines, or regional scheduled airlines selling point-to-point services.

Last week AoT’s board of directors approved a three-year incentive scheme for airlines who agree to move to Don Mueang.

From 1 August to 30 September, all fees will be reduced by 95%. From1 October this year to 30 September 2013 it will discount landing fees, space rental and check-in counter use by 30% . Discounts are 20% from 1 October 2013 to 30 September 2014 and 10%, 1 October 2014 to 30 September 2015.

The incentive programme will cost AoT around Bt246 million (for the projected 14 airlines).

AoT would finish improving facilities in July mainly for airline offices and back-up services. But the official re-opening of Don Mueang Airport as an international gateway will not be celebrated until October.

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