Demons from the ‘Ramakien’ epic stand guard at Suvarnabhumi. The gateway airport’s passenger traffic rose 7.1% in the eight months to August. (Photo by Boonsong Kositchotethana)
Aggregate passengers using Thailand’s six key airports surged by 8% in the first eight months of 2017 to 88.6 million.
Both international and domestic tallies showed fairly robust growth at 7.4% and 8.7%, respectively, to 50.4 million and 38.2 million, according to figures from Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT).
All AoT-run airports, including Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang, showed growth in the period, ranging from 7.1% to 22.1%.
Combined aircraft movements rose in tandem in the period, up 5.7% at 552,756, breaking down to 281,326 international (up 3.3%) and 271,430 domestic (up 8.4%).
Thailand’s three busiest airports showed steady growth in passenger traffic, with Suvarnabhumi handling 40.7 million (up 7.1%), Don Mueang 25.4 million (up 7.3%) and Phuket 11.3 million (up 10%).
The tallies reflected overcrowding at nearly all AoT-run facilities.
Combined passengers at the six AoT-run airports reached 120 million in the fiscal year to September 2016.
That amount was 23.4 million passengers, or 24.3%, beyond the aggregate design capacity of 96.5 million a year.
The difference between design capacity and actual use widened from the previous fiscal year as passenger traffic, spurred by rising tourism, kept growing.
In the previous fiscal year to September 2015, AoT-run airports handled 107 million passengers, exceeding their limits by 10.3 million or 10.7%.
Among the six AoT-run airports, only Chiang Rai is operating below capacity. A few years may elapse before Chiang Rai’s design capacity of 3 million passengers a year is fulfilled.
Suvarnabhumi is facing the most critical capacity shortfall, with 55.5 million passengers put through the airport in fiscal 2016 compared with its annual capacity of 45 million.
Don Mueang, billed as Asia’s biggest low-cost carrier hub, was not better off: 34.7 million cramped the airport meant to process 30 million passengers a year.
A similar story occurred in Phuket, which handled 14.7 million passengers in fiscal 2016, considerably more than its capacity of 8 million.
Passenger throughput at Chiang Mai in fiscal 2016 was 9.21 million, against capacity of 8 million.
AoT executives have said they are able to cope with higher than capacity movements by means of traffic management.