Bangkok's Old Don Muang Airport Reopens

Bangkok's old airport, Don Muang, reopened Sunday to help ease congestion at the city's troubled new international airport as its taxiways and main terminal undergo repairs.

Don Muang will handle about 140 flights daily, including some of national airline Thai Airways' domestic flights and all domestic routes for budget carriers Nok Air and One-Two-Go, said Kulya Pakakrong, acting president of Airports of Thailand, which runs both airports.

Bangkok's US$3.8 billion (euro2.9 billion) Suvarnabhumi Airport, which opened in September last year, was intended to be Southeast Asia's leading air transportation hub. But it has been plagued by a host of widely publicized problems, including cracks in taxiways, a shortage of toilets, dozens of design flaws and a long list of corruption allegations.

Compared to the airy and expansive Suvarnabhumi, constructed of steel, concrete and lots of glass to let in natural light, the 90-year-old Don Muang airport is smaller and much less elaborate in design with lower ceilings.

However, the first day of operations at the old facility has been without major problems, Thai Airways President Apinan Sumanaseni said.

"The transfer has been smooth, except for minor glitches for some passengers who transfer from an international flight to a domestic one that does not fly out of Suvarnabhumi," Apinan said, adding that Thai Airways has an hourly shuttle bus service between the two airports to alleviate the problem.

Passengers had mixed feelings about using Don Muang airport.

German tourist Inga Wenzel said she preferred it "because it's smaller than the new airport."

Others said they were inconvenienced by having to shuttle between the two airports for connecting flights, even though officials had insisted that Don Muang would only be used for non-connecting domestic flights.

Canadian traveler David Dreisinger arrived from Canada at Suvarnabhumi, then took a 45-minute taxi ride to the old airport to catch a domestic flight.

"It was an extra bit of travel I didn't need after 20 hours on the airplane," he said.

The Thai government has not said how long the repairs at Suvarnabhumi could take, or whether the shift of some flights back to Don Muang is a temporary move.

Thai Airways will operate 30 daily domestic flights out of Don Muang, including some to the northern city of Chiang Mai and destinations such as Ubon Ratchathani and Phisanulok.

Eleven Thai Airways routes to popular tourist spots such as Phuket and Krabi will be kept at Suvarnabhumi to make it easier for passengers connecting to international flights, the airline said in a statement.

Nok Air and One-Two-Go will transfer all of their flights back to the 90-year-old Don Muang, where fees are lower than Suvarnabhumi.

Nonetheless, foreign carriers have said they will stay put at Suvarnabhumi.

Critics have said Don Muang's reopening could confuse tourists and cause problems for visitors who need to shuttle through Bangkok's legendary traffic jams. There is currently no rail network linking the two airports.

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