Unrest causes Don Mueang to miss target

Don Mueang airport’s passenger throughput in the fourth quarter of 2013 missed the target by 500,000 as the impact of Bangkok’s civil unrest took its toll.

Thailand's oldest airport, which now serves as Bangkok’s de-facto low-cost carrier hub, recorded 4.5 million passengers during the period, falling short of the 5 million target set by the state-controlled Airports of Thailand Plc.

However, the volume represented a 21% quarter-on-quarter growth, falling short of the expected 25% rise, according to Don Mueang general manager Chaturongkapon Sodmanee.

While the ongoing political stalemate has affected international arrivals, Don Mueang expects passenger throughput in the first quarter of 2014 will remain at the same level as the preceding quarter.

"We don’t think passenger traffic will worsen,” said Mr Chaturongkapon.

He said the flow of Chinese passengers, who constitute up to 85% of all international arrivals at Don Mueang, has stabilised.

That stems partly from the fact that China’s recent clamp down on substandard outbound tour packages is taking effect.

The tougher law has begun to suppress the leap in Chinese passenger traffic to Thailand and other countries since last October, a few months after the crackdown on scams targeting Chinese tourists started.

The so-called “zero-dollar tours’’ offer very cheap package deals to Thailand, but once here tourists are then pressured into buying overpriced goods and services.

Chinese arrivals at Don Mueang has since been rising by around 10%, below the expected 25% growth.

The increased flight capacities by budget airlines Thai AirAsia and Thai Lion Air in the current quarter helped sustain Don Mueang’s passenger traffic.

Mr Chaturongkapon noted that the numbers of transit passenger at Don Mueang have risen to 150-200 a day from only 20-30 before.

This reflects the uptrend in passengers bypassing politically troubled Bangkok to connect to other Thai cities, he said.

Meanwhile, he said work to restore Terminal 2 along with fixing Pier 5 to augment Don Mueang’s total passenger handling capacity, currently at 18.5 million a year, to 30 million.

The work will be completed by September of this year.

The 3-billion-baht restoration has been put on the fast track in a bid to ensure additional capacity to arrest soaring air traffic demand before Terminal 1 becomes overcrowded.

Don Mueang’s passenger throughput for the year to last Sept 30 were 15.6 million, inching close to its current annual capacity.

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