Songkran boosts demand for air travel

Forget about Thailand's seemingly never-ending political mess, foreign countries’ travel advisories and looming economic downturn — locals and foreigners alike want to celebrate Songkran, with more revellers taking to the skies for the holiday.

Some 1.86 million people are expected to take flights through the country's six major airports between tomorrow and next Thursday, up by 4.2% from last year's water festival.

Airlines will provide more than 12,200 flights during the period, an increase of 9.6%, said Airports of Thailand Plc.

This traffic level is an estimate for Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports in Bangkok along with those in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phuket and Hat Yai.

The surge in passenger traffic and aircraft movements over Songkran reflects improved travel sentiment following the caretaker government's recent decision to lift the two-month state of emergency that heavily affected the tourism industry.

At Suvarnabhumi, Thailand's gateway airport, passenger traffic over Songkran is expected to increase by 4,200 a day from present levels, raising daily throughput to about 150,000, said general manager Rawewan Netarakavesana.

However, passenger volume through Suvarnabhumi remains in the red zone compared with last year, although the shrinkage has narrowed after the lifting of the state of emergency, she told the Bangkok Post.

"Sentiment for travel to Thailand has improved, and Chinese tourists are resuming their trips," Ms Rawewan said.

Passenger throughput slumped 7-8% in the first two months of this year to an average of 120,000 to 130,000 a day as international travellers avoided Thailand's political unrest. It was the first traffic decline since the airport opened in September 2006.

Suvarnabhumi handles 60% of all air traffic through the country.

Its passenger throughput started to fall in early January after being flat in December.

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