Orient Thai welcomes return to Don Mueang
BANGKOK: -- Orient Thai Airlines Co says it welcomes the move to make Don Mueang Airport Bangkok's hub for low-cost airlines, saying it is ready to return to this base from Suvarnabhumi Airport.
Udom Tantiprasongchai, founder of Orient Thai and chairman of its advisory board, said it would start next week to resume some domestic flights from Don Mueang. Its charter flights will follow later, but need one or two months to make the move because tickets have been booked in advance.
Tassapon Bijleveld, chief executive officer of Asia Aviation, a listed operator of low-cost carrier AirAsia, was not available for comment yesterday. However, the company's head of public relations said it also welcomed the government's move regarding Don Mueang, which was initiated to reduce congestion at Suvarnabhumi. However, the company is still discussing the matter and will hold a press conference on its decision next week.
Currently only Nok Air, a local low-cost carrier, runs its operations at Don Mueang.
Recently, the government announced incentives for low-cost airlines to persuade them to return to Don Mueang. Among these are a 30-per-cent discount on landing and parking fees and a 10-per-cent discount on office rent. Incentives will be finalised by Airports of Thailand this week. Udom believes the government will offer fair incentives to airlines equally. Udom said his airline would not lose any benefits by moving back to Don Mueang. The carrier has faces competition at every airport it has worked in. Therefore, it will improve its service quality to increase its competitive advantage. As its next move, it will start informing Orient Thai passengers when to board at Don Mueang.
People working in the tourism industry believe the Don Mueang decision will give a boost to their sector, especially by increasing Bangkok's overall airport capacity and providing more convenience to passengers.
Krongkrit Hiranyakit, head of policy at the Tourism Council of Thailand, said it was a good idea to promote Don Mueang as a hub for low-cost airlines because the airport can welcome more than 25 million passengers annually. Clearly, it will help reduce congestion at Suvarnabhumi, which can practically serve only 45 million people a year, but now faces over-capacity at 55 million passengers. The congestion creates knock-on problems for the immigration process and air traffic from takeoff to landing.
The combined capacity of the two airports is 70 million passengers per year. Therefore, the Don Mueang move is in line with the government's policy to promote Thailand as a gateway to Asean tourism. Also, it will help secure future service in unexpected situations such as natural disasters or political chaos.
Having two airports is common in other countries' major cities and passengers can understand Thailand's situation. However, the government needs to build improve logistical connections between the two, industry observers say.
The Nation 2012-06-21