Thai budget airlines want to move back to Bangkok's old airport - UPDATE


Bangkok (XFNews-ASIA) - Thailand's low-cost carriers said they want to move their operations back to Bangkok's old airport, citing increased costs at the capital's new international airport.

"The new airport is getting busy with more traffic, while our operation costs are rising," said Tassapon Bijleveld, chief executive officer of budget airline Thai AirAsia.

"Consequently, every low-cost airline would like to discuss the possibility with airport officials of moving back to Don Muang," he told Agence France-Presse.

The new 3-bln-usd Suvarnabhumi airport officially opened less than three weeks ago, replacing Don Muang airport.

Suvarnabhumi is expected to handle 38 mln passengers in its first year, rising to 45 mln passengers per year in the future.

Airport officials have already announced plans to build a 16-mln-usd terminal to cater to budget carriers within 16 months. They are still debating possible uses for decades-old Don Muang airport.

"We have to listen to the reasons why low-cost airlines want to move back to Don Muang, but so far they have not started official discussions about this issue," Chaisak Angkasuwan, director general of the government's aviation department, told AFP.

"The final decision will be based on the economic value if we operate two separate airports -- Don Muang and Suvarnabhumi -- at the same time."

Chaisak recently urged Airports of Thailand (AOT), which operates Suvarnabhumi, to think about expanding the new airport in response to an expected increase in traffic over the next five years.

AOT president Chotisak Asapaviriya said he does not understand why the budget airlines want to move back to Don Muang, and said operating costs for low-cost carriers are unlikely to rise at the new airport.

He said the only price hike was a 15 pct increase in landing fees, which will take effect in April 2007.

He said AOT will hold a meeting Friday with airlines to discuss the problem.

"The new airport could serve up to 45 million passengers yearly. I have not seen any reason to say that it is getting too crowded at the moment," Chotisak added.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents 250 carriers but has no low-cost members, has urged authorities to use only one airport.

"A single airport is best in terms of passenger convenience, and is also the most cost-efficient use of AOT's resources," said Albert Tjoeng, IATA's spokesman based in Singapore.

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