Chadchart unveils air hub plan

The Transport Ministry has announced its ambition to transform Thailand into an aviation hub, pointing to what it sees as bright growth prospects for regional air travel.

"Thailand has the potential to become a regional aviation hub," caretaker Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt said. "But, first of all, we need to explore the reasons why more airlines have not chosen to operate routes in and out of the country."

He was speaking at a seminar on aviation cooperation held on Friday, attended by key industry figures. It was organised by Aeronautical Radio of Thailand (Aerothai).

The aviation business in Asia and the Pacific has greater potential for growth when compared to that of Europe and North America, Mr Chadchart said.

In 2011, Asia and the Pacific shared 29% of the global aviation market, while North America and Europe shared 27% and 26% of the market respectively, he said.

Citing a ministry projection, he said by 2040, Asia and the Pacific would share about 40% of the global aviation market. He said it was important to begin preparing now to accommodate that future growth.

Bottlenecks hindering aviation development needed to be properly identified and resolved, whether they are concerned with Aerothai, which provides air traffic control services for Thailand, or Suvarnabhumi airport, he said.

Satisfactory growth in the domestic aviation business was observed during the recent Songkran period, when the number of passengers opting to travel by plane rose by 35% on the previous year, he said.

About 9,000 people travelled by train, 18,000 by public bus, and 120,000 by plane within the country during Songkran, he said. During the same period, Thailand saw a 9% rise in the number of passengers flying on international routes in and out of the country, he said.

Mr Chadchart noted that the aviation industry contributed only 1% of Thailand's GDP, compared to 5% in Singapore.

To achieve the goal of becoming a regional aviation hub, Thailand would have to look into the overall picture of aviation development which also includes aircraft repair facilities, parts manufacturing, training and pilot certification, he said.

"All concerned parties have to join hands in this effort. Aerothai will have to prepare training programmes on aviation development while Airports of Thailand is responsible for expanding Suvarnabhumi."

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