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Open skies policy lags as airports hit capacity

Feb 23. 2016
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The Nation

ASEAN nations are urged to move further on their open skies policy to raise air capacity as major airports are already overloaded.

"Some major airports in the region have already reached their originally capacities including Thailand’s Suvarnabhumi Airport and Indone-sia’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport," a source at a French aircraft maker said in Singapore last week.

Another aviation expert said Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok would soon face overcrowding even though the airport had just completed renovating a terminal, which helped to increase capacity ofto 28 million to 30 million passengers per year.

The two experts noted that the liberalisation of air traffic in Southeast Asia was still proceeding slowly and had some distance to reach the target.

All 10 Asean countries should have begun truly endorsing a single air market policy last year by the agreement’s deadline.

"If airlines are allowed to fly to second or third cities in the region under seventh freedom rights of the open skies agreement, the region will definitely have more tourists and also reduce the overloading at big airports," they said.

The Philippines, Indonesia and Laos should move on an aviation deal to help drive the region’s economy as well as to enhance network connectivity.

Indonesia has only opened Jakarta while the Philippines only allows Manila. Vientiane and Luang Pra-bang in Laos also limit air services.

Under the seventh freedom policy, foreign airlines can serve domestic cities throughout the region and also establish bases of operation outside their home countries.

Southeast Asia is reportedly on track to extending open skies with Europe. The two regions hope to remove all restrictions including those on flight frequencies.

Flightglobal data show that more than 34,000 flights were in service last month. The country pair of Indonesia-Singapore was the largest contributor with 451,456 seats on 2,235 flights, followed by Indonesia-Malaysia with 420,374 seats and 2,459 flights.

For Thailand, traffic with Singapore saw 321,779 seats on 1,526 flights, with Vietnam 152,259 seats on 626 flights and with Cambodia 85,846 seats on 581 flights.

Tourism ministers met in Manila last month to draft a regional tourism strategic plan aimed at boosting arrivals to the region to 123 million by 2020, 152 million by 2025 and 187 million by 2030.

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