By SUCHAT SRITAMA
Expecting a bright future for the airport, Malaysia-based AirAsia Group yesterday expressed interest in investing in an aircraft parking bay at Don Mueang, while several other budget airlines plan to spread their wings into Thailand in the final quarter of the year.
Nitinai Sirismatthakarn, president of Airports of Thailand (AOT), operator of six international airports, said Don Mueang served 22.5 million passengers between January and August although the airport’s official capacity is 18.5 million per year.
He said the CAPA Centre for Aviation, which is based in Australia, had earlier put the number of passenger travelling with LCCs via Don Mueang Airport at 13.4 million during the first six months of this year, but actually the airport served 14.4 million passengers during the first half.
The aviation centre also marked Bangkok’s Don Mueang as the world’s busiest LCC airport for the first time.
Don Mueang now serves more LCC passengers than Las Vegas McCarren International Airport in the US (13.3 million in the first half), Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia (12.6 million), Barcelona El Prat Airport in Spain (12 million), and Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Indonesia (12 million).
According to the CAPA, Don Mueang saw passenger traffic surge by 50 per cent between January and June this year. Moreover, Thailand’s LCC fleet is expected number 100 by the end of 2015. The country’s LCC sector consisted of 87 aircraft as of the end of the first half, up from 74 at the end of 2014.
Nitinai said AOT would reopen its renovated terminal at Don Mueang by the end of November to cope with an expected surge of arrivals during high season. When its capacity is combined with the existing terminal’s, the airport will be able to serve up to 30 million passengers per year.
He said at least three new budget airlines from Japan, China and South Korea would begin operating to Don Mueang Airport next quarter.
Currently, major low-cost airlines operating at Don Mueang include Thai Smile, Nok, NookScoot, Thai AirAsia, Thai AirAsia X, and Thai Lion Air.
Tony Fernandez, group chief executive officer of AirAsia Group, said Thailand was a great hub of air travel and Don Mueang had potential to grow further, particularly for budget travellers.
However, he noted that the airport still had limited aircraft parking bays, so AirAsia is interested in investing in such facilities. Therefore, it is needs to discuss the details with AOT.
During the first quarter of this year, AOT earned profit of Bt13.8 billion, almost as much as in the whole of 2014.