Thailand’s Transport Ministry plans to increase airport slots for summer season

Picture courtesy of Wichan Charoenkiatpakul

A surge in foreign arrivals expected for the summer season has prompted the Transport Ministry to direct the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) to expand the number of available airport slots. These slots, which denote the time-bound authorisation for airlines to take off and land, are set to be increased at key transport hubs, including Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang, Chiang Mai, and Phuket airports, and other nationwide airports.

Transport Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit revealed on Saturday about the potential increment of flight slots by 30 to 40% to cater to the growing demand.

“The CAAT was instructed to work with Airports of Thailand (AoT) and airline operators to work on slot allocations during rush hour.”

Suriya expects this move to boost passenger numbers and stimulate the aviation industry’s recovery to its pre-pandemic state.

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Despite the current inability of aircraft manufacturers to meet the global demand for new planes, the minister anticipates an expansion of the aviation industry as more planes become available in the next few years. He also highlighted that Chiang Mai International Airport now operates round-the-clock in response to the government’s economic stimulus policies.

However, this move has its share of controversy. The extended operating hours have sparked protests from residents, who complain about the damage caused by excessive noise and vibration from overhead traffic. Suriya explained that the AoT has been instructed to take the necessary measures to alleviate the concerns of those affected, reported Bangkok Post.

Suttipong Kongpool, CAAT Director-General, reported a 74% increase in airline passengers compared to pre-pandemic figures from 2019. He expects passenger numbers to reach 162 million this year, largely due to a resurgence in travel among Chinese and Indian tourists post-pandemic.

Despite Thailand’s visa-free policy for Chinese visitors, Kongpool noted that economic issues and domestic travel encouragement in China might delay their international travel plans. However, he remained optimistic.

“We believe that Chinese people will start to travel abroad more in the second half of this year.”

Echoing Kongpool’s sentiments, Puttipong Prasarttong-Osoth, president of the Airlines Association of Thailand, suggested that the tourism stimulus measures should soon yield results. He highlighted that while the visa exemption policy comes at a time of economic strife for China, flight bookings from Chinese travellers are projected to increase in the second half of this year.

Flight slots

Suriya, known for his commitment to improving Thailand’s logistics network, is set to increase the number of commercial flights by 100 to 150 per day, following a proposal to Defence Minister Sutin Klungsang to surrender unused flight slots held by the Royal Thai Air Force at AoT-operated airports.

The allocation of these slots will be determined by the CAAT based on each airport’s capacity to handle flights. This development underscores the Transport Minister’s promise to bolster Thailand’s infrastructure, particularly in railways, maritime transport, and air travel.

Thailand News

Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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