Bangkok (XFNews-ASIA) - The government needs to think about expanding Bangkok's new international airport to accommodate an expected jump in traffic over the next five years, the country's civil aviation chief said.
"Given the projected increase of air traffic by roughly 10 percent annually, I recommended the airport officials start thinking about the expansion right now," Chaisak Angsuwan, the aviation department chief, told Agence France-Presse.
The new Suvarnabhumi airport officially opened less than three weeks ago, replacing the creaking Don Muang airport, and is expected to handle 38 mln passengers in its first year.
But Chaisak said the number of passengers could rise quickly as new airlines begin flying to Suvarnabhumi and other carriers increase their services, especially during the peak tourist season which runs from November through April.
Arrivals could reach 40 mln very quickly, he said.
The airport is designed to handle 45 mln passengers a year, but could be expanded to serve up to 120 mln.
"Eight carriers who have not previously flown to Bangkok will start services from the new airport later this year," Chaisak said.
"We will need more capacity to handle more flights, including those newcomers," he said.
The three-billion-dollar airport already plans to build a 16 mln usd terminal to cater to budget carriers within 16 months.
Airports of Thailand, which operates Suvarnabhumi, said it projects the new facility will be able to handle the increasing arrivals for about five years.
"The existing capacity of Suvarnabhumi is enough to handle arrivals up to the year 2011 without additional investment required," said AoT boss Chotisak Asapaviriya.
"We will not decide on further expansion of Suvarnabhumi until we reach a solution about future use of Don Muang airport," he told AFP.
The decades-old Don Muang airport closed when the new airport opened. It remains open to charter flights and as a maintenance facility, but officials are still debating whether to have any normal commercial traffic there.