Airlines Want to Keep International Flights at New Bangkok Airport

Most airlines faced with the question of how to divide operations between Bangkok's old and new airports, prefer to keep scheduled international flights at the recently opened Suvarnabhumi Airport, Thailand's Transport Minister said Thursday.

The Cabinet has approved in principle the reopening of the old airport at Don Muang, just north of Bangkok, to ease congestion at the new Suvarnabhumi Airport caused by the need to make repairs to runways and taxiways.

Airlines, unhappy about the costs and complications of moving operations back to Don Muang, met Thursday to exchange views on the situation with Transport Minister Thira Hao-Charoen.

He said that most airlines wanted to keep their international flights at Suvarnabhumi, which opened last September, and have the airport at Don Muang, which stopped commercial operations, handle only domestic flights and overseas charters.

The ministry will propose a detailed plan to the Cabinet next week on reopening the old airport, according to Thira.

Suvarnabhumi Airport was built to transform the Thai capital into Southeast Asia's leading air hub.

Instead, the facility has become a national embarrassment with widely publicized problems that include the taxiway and runway cracks, a shortage of toilets, dozens of design flaws and a long list of corruption allegations.

Thai Airways said Wednesday that it plans to continue using Suvarnabhumi Airport for international flights. The national carrier has not yet decided whether to relocate certain domestic flights to the old airport, Thai Airways president Apinan Sumanaseni said after a board meeting.

Thai Airways saw no need to switch international flights to Don Muang, which could prove confusing to travelers, since the new airport was "safe for operation," Apinan said, adding that the carrier had already invested 17 billion baht (US$510 million, euro390 million) to relocate to Suvarnabhumi.

Thira has said he did not expect many airlines to move back to the old airport because of the investment spent for their relocation. Budget carriers, however, have expressed interest in returning to Don Muang, where fees are cheaper.

Regardless of the government's final decision, the old airport at Don Muang will be ready for reopening on March 25 both for domestic and international operations, said Kulya Pakakrong, acting president of Airports of Thailand, the operator of both airports.

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