Airlines threaten to halt flights if moved back to old Thai airport

 
 
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A Thai airways aircraft taxis to a terminal at the new Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok

   
 
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15 February 2007

BANGKOK – International airlines on Thursday threatened to halt flights to Thailand if the army-backed government forced them to move back to Bangkok’s old airport, which is expected to re-open next month.

“Some members are going to review commitment to continue the services from Thailand if they are forced to split operations to serve two airports,” Brian Sinclair-Thompson, president of Board of Airline Representatives, a group of over 60 international carriers, told reporters.

The government said last month it would re-open the ageing Don Muang airport to fix a host of problems at Thailand’s new Suvarnabhumi Airport, which opened in late September.

But so far only a handful of carriers have said they wanted to return their operations to the nearly century-old airport.

Sinclair-Thompson said the group was against the idea of two international airports in Thailand.

“We are firm with the position that we favour a single airport solution,” he said following a meeting with the government, warning that if Thailand had two international airports, Bangkok would lose a chance to become a regional hub.

Since its opening, the three-billion-dollar airport has been mired in problems, including more than 100 cracks on taxiways and runways, corruption claims, inadequate toilets and facilities, and complaints about hygiene standards.

But assessing the true extent of the damage at Suvarnabhumi has proved difficult, as a leading engineer has said the cracks could be fixed within weeks and that there was no need to shut down the airport.

Outside analysts have also warned the military-backed government may be inflating its claims in a political bid to discredit the regime of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a September coup.

Suvarnabhumi was one of Thaksin’s pet projects, and the deposed leader had made the airport a personal crusade, and once camped at the building site in a show of support. – AFP/ir

 

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