Bangkok airports shutdown

1st December 2008

With Bangkok airports handling over 3% of the worlds air travel and more than 100,000 travelers every day, the shut-down of Don Muang Domestic Airport and Suvarnabhumi International Airport has caused a disastrous knock-on affect and airlines trying desperately to reroute passengers and freight.

The government’s decision not to use force to move the protestors means a quick decision is unlikely to happen until one of the parties steps down. The affect this is having on Thailand’s economy is huge.

Thousands of airlines around the world have had to cancel flights in and out of the capital until the issue is resolved and others are making special arrangements for those passengers who are now stranded in Thailand by using a small airport southeast of the capital.

The closure of the airports and the current situation in the country is very damaging to the airlines and especially to the tourism development of Thailand and is expected to have a long term impact.

Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport is the main gateway to Thailand and one of the world's most heavily used airports, serving around 100 airlines with flights to 184 cities in 68 countries.

The biggest impact is on Thailand’s national carrier, Thai Airways. Their hub is closed down and preventing them from operating. The ripple effect for other Asian carriers’ means they also have to reroute passengers and cargo which creates a considerable knock-on disruption.

On a regular day, there are 100,000 passengers arriving and departing from Suvarnabhumi causing a lot of disruption and inconvenience for a lot of people.

Thai International Airways PCL is currently losing $14 million in revenue a day as its aircraft sit waiting on the runway and they have stated that they are going to try and operate flights from U-tapao airport, about 190 kilometres southeast of Bangkok and close to Pattaya. However the airport there is only small and it is unlikely it can cope with more than a small percentage of extra passengers. Apparently U-tapao airport's parking lot has room for only 100 vehicles and its terminal can contain only 400 people at a time.

Cathay Pacific spokeswoman Carolyn Leung said, the airline has scheduled two flights on Friday and Saturday from U-tapao airport to bring home Hong Kong residents, Air Macao and Malaysia's Air Asia are also scheduling rescue flights to U-tapao.

Suvarnabhumi airport was taken over by protesters last Tuesday in an effort to unseat Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat's government, which they allege is a puppet for ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra. It is the latest action in the 4 month campaign by protesters to get rid of the government.

On Wednesday night, protesters overran Don Muang, the domestic airport in Bangkok, effectively preventing all commercial flights to the capital of Southeast Asia's second-biggest economy, a key manufacturing hub for automakers such as Toyota Motor Corp.
Tourism officials and economists estimate the tourism industry's losses over the rest of the year will swell to 150 billion baht ($4.2 billion), equal to 1.5 percent of gross domestic product, with over 2 million possibly canceling their travel plans.

Exporters in Thailand are appalled at the quickly rising costs of lost trade, predicted by the Federation of Thai Industries at 2 billion to 3 billion baht a day ($57 million to $85 million).

Thai Airways have stated they will arrange for special flights so that hundreds of Thai Muslims can travel to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca a significantly important event for Muslims. One flight carrying 250 pilgrims will leave on Friday from Hat Yai airport in the country's Muslim-majority south just in time to arrive in Saudi Arabia for the Hajj.

Singapore Airlines' six daily flights to Bangkok remain suspended and the airline has stated it will put aside any cancellation and re booking fees for customers who have been unable to fly due to the situation.

Japan Airlines has canceled all 5 of its daily flights between Bangkok and Japanese cities, together with Tokyo, since Wednesday, which so far has affected more than 6,100 people. Most passengers are waiting in Bangkok with reservations at later dates in the hope the situation will soon be resolved.

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