Airports of Thailand (AOT) recently responded to government pressure by appointing EPM Consortium to manage the 62.5 billion Thai baht ($2 billion) second-phase expansion project, which includes a concourse terminal with an adjacent 28 parking bays, and a tunnel and rail line that connect the concourse to the other terminal. The project also includes an extension to the existing terminal as well as construction of a new office building for airline companies. “Construction of a third runway is also in the plan, but the authorities still have to complete an environmental impact study,” an AOT spokesman says. “If there is no problem, the third runway will be finished [at the same time as] Phase two,” which is 2017. But a phase-three expansion may be needed fairly soon. Phase two will increase capacity to 60 million passengers per year, but AOT forecasts passenger traffic at Suvarnabhumi will reach this milestone in 2021.
Phase two construction, meanwhile, is only due to commence in late 2013. In an effort to relieve congestion in the immediate term, the Thai government and AOT have decided some carriers are to relocate to Bangkok's Don Mueang International Airport.
Thai AirAsia, and its overseas affiliates that serve Bangkok, will vacate Suvarnabhumi and start operating from Don Mueang on Oct. 1, says CEO Tassapon Bijleveld. To entice carriers to move, AOT has granted a three-year discount on all airport fees and charges. The discount is 30% the first year, 20% the second, and 10% in the third. Tassapon says he plans to renegotiate with AOT for fourth-year discounts when the time comes. He also says the government has agreed to increase bus services to Don Mueang and that it is committed to working toward building a rail-line connecting the airport to the Bangkok train system.
Thai AirAsia is moving to Don Mueang because Suvarnabhumi's congestion had reached the point where “we were no longer able to grow there,” says Tassapon. It also adversely affected the airline's on-time performance.
Thai Airways International, meanwhile, is keeping all its flights at Suvarnabhumi. The national carrier's executive vice president of strategy and business development, Chokchai Panyayong, says once AirAsia vacates, it will free up slots for Thai Airways to expand. Chokchai says the AOT still needs to do more to improve runway utilization. The airport was designed for 76 aircraft movements per hour, but currently 54-56 is the norm, he says.
Congestion at Jakarta's main international gateway, Soekarno-Hatta International, is also leading the Indonesian authorities and some airlines there to look at alternatives.
National airport authority Angkasa Pura II states that Merpati Nusantara Airlines, Garuda Indonesia's low-cost carrier Citilink, and Lion Air's new full-service carrier Batik Air are allowed to be based at Jakarta's Halim Perdanakusuma International Airport next year. Lion wanted Batik Air there and Angkasa Pura II agreed to this, and also included Citilink and Merpati to help relieve congestion at Soekarno-Hatta.
Soekarno-Hatta's passenger traffic grew 19% last year to 51 million—the fastest increase among the world's major airports. Its three terminals were designed to handle 38 million passengers.
Garuda CEO Emirsyah Satar says Angkasa Pura II's plan to upgrade the airport's three terminals includes erecting a building between the first two terminals that will house customs, immigration and quarantine. But it is unclear when construction will commence.
Runway capacity also needs to be increased, says Satar. But it will be hard for the government to appropriate the land, he says. “From the airline's perspective, I am looking at how they can invest in more equipment . . . so the existing two runways can operate more efficiently.”