Sunday, July 15, 2007

Airport security still below par

Airport security still below par
By Amornrat Mahitthirook
Bangkok Post, 15 July 2007

Six months after receiving low grades from international experts, Airports of Thailand (AoT) still can't make up its mind on how it should improve Suvarnabhumi airport's security.

AoT still says it is open to all possible options, and has taken no action to upgrade the problem.

A highly-placed source at the AoT said the AoT board will meet yet again next Thursday and evaluate the performance of the Loxley-ICTS consortium, its contractor responsible for the security of Suvarnabhumi airport.

Last Jan 6, AoT claimed it had "addressed" security problems, threatening the Loxley-ICTS team that it might terminate its contract. At that time, there were strong fears over airport security because of the New Year's bombing in Bangkok.

Up to now, the consortium has failed to meet its contractual obligations. AoT has already given the consortium a chance to make improvements and the consortium's performance will be evaluated for the second time tomorrow.

Previously, the consortium scored well in the searches category but not in the overall surveillance of the airport.

The substandard service prompted the AoT board to consider shortening the consortium's 10-year contract or separating its search and surveillance contracts to keep only the search deal alive.

However, the board also reserves its right to terminate the contract and find a new contractor or handle the airport's security matters by itself through a subsidiary.

Executives of the consortium have informally negotiated with the representatives of the AoT board. The contractor prefers a change to its contract, not termination.

To deal with possible terror attacks, it would be better for the AoT to follow the suggestion of the International Air Transport Association that it handle the airport's security by itself.

If that is the case, the AoT will have to deploy a unit of temporary security personnel first, before a permanent unit is established for the task.

Chaturongkapol Sodmanee, deputy director of Suvarnabhumi airport, said yesterday that the Loxley-ICTS consortium had made some improvements to its security services which enable it to score 6-7 points on a scale of 10.

Although the contractor has tried to improve its services, AoT can't afford to show any leniency, he said.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Express link coming off the rails?

Will this be another costly lesson for a country that never learns from its mistakes? To be sure, it's another nail in the coffin for whatever remains of Suvarnabhumi Airport's international stature.

Airport train running late
The Nation, June 10, 2007

The multibillion-baht Airport Rail Link from Makkasan to Suvarnabhumi is way behind schedule and over budget.

Last week experts met to thrash out how it can be saved before banks pull their support.

The link was started during the tenure of the deposed Thaksin Shinawatra government and there are allegations that poor planning and corruption sent costs spiralling from an original estimate of Bt25.9 billion to over Bt30 billion.

State Railway of Thailand (SRT) deputy governor Nakorn Chanthasorn said the situation was critical.

"Originally, we were supposed to pay for the link after it was completed. Politicians intervened and the previous Cabinet resolved that we would pay up 990 days after work commenced," he said.

"This means the SRT needs to find as much as Bt22.6 billion within the next few months. We are asking for a Cabinet solution."

Those familiar with the link said it was in trouble. Implementation was ill-planned and hurried because the Thaksin government wanted the 28-kilometre high-speed link completed soon after Suvarnabhumi Airport east of Bangkok opened.

The link is meant to dash passengers from the centre of the capital to the airport in 15 minutes. Already Shanghai has its maglev (magnetic levitation) train to Pudong, Kuala Lumpur an airport express-rail service and trains zoom travellers from Incheon International and Gimpo airports to Seoul Station.

Bangkok's link was originally due for completion on August 7 this year. About three months of trials would be required after that.

"Overall, planners were too optimistic. For instance, they assumed it would take just 90 days to access all construction sites along the route. "In reality it took as long as 700 days because of opposition by some landowners," Nakorn said.

Last week it was calculated the rail link is almost 50 per cent behind schedule.

The project's construction work is just under 54-per-cent complete. By now it should have been 98-per-cent done.

Work on electrical and mechanical systems is more than 70-per-cent finished but should be 96 per cent along the way.

Nakorn remained unsure about how much longer it would take before completion and what that would cost.

A recent compromise between the SRT and the project's builders secured an additional 463 days for construction.

Originally, the construction was to be paid for by contractors, who would be reimbursed by the state, with interest.

The latest number-crunching session calculated the project has cost Bt34.5 billion, including interest. That is over budget by one third.

Now that the SRT has to cough up after 990 days from the start of building, the bill is an initial Bt22.6 billion, including Bt1.4 billion in interest.

"If that's not paid, financial institutions could stop their support and construction will stop," Nakorn said.

One option is to stretch the loan term to require payment when building is finished. That will incur the SRT an additional Bt1.4 billion in interest charges.

Another is to refinance.

SRT board chairman Siva Saengmanee said a decision was due later this year.

Apart from the financial problems, the link will immediately start making operational losses.

"The [revenue] estimates are too optimistic. They expected one of every four Suvarnabhumi passengers would use the link service. How could this be possible when Hong Kong's system attracts just 8.5 per cent - and that connects the whole city," Nakorn asked.

Estimates ran at 87,700 passengers a day in the first year, rising to 402,700 passengers a day within 30 years. Expected daily income is Bt3.1 million in the first year and Bt19.7 million in the 30th. Break-even comes after 20 years.

"This is a costly lesson for Thailand as far as mega projects are concerned, especially the new mass-transit projects that start soon," said Suwat Wanisubut of the National Economic and Social Development Board.

"The problem stems from a lack of efficient planning and implementation mechanisms. Moreover, the processes we used are sensitive to political instability," he said.

To prevent a repeat of these mistakes, Suwat said better project transparency was required as was a "a paradigm shift for conducting mass-transit projects".

"In the past, planning focused on the supply side. Now, we need to focus on demand instead. That means we have to plan mass transit as a tool to help implement city planning," he said.

"We need to answer first what the future picture looks like and plan mass-transit projects to meet that reality. People need incentives to use mass transport and get out of their cars," Suwat said.

Thai National Health Foundation policy researcher Dr Paibul Suriyawongpaisal concurred: people need to be encouraged to use mass transport and they should have a say in how it is built.

"Mass transit is good for public health. Currently, problems related to the lack of mass transit - like bad air and unhealthy city people who don't exercise and eat poor food - are the cause of accumulated chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, cancers and respiratory problems.

"These account for 60 per cent to 70 per cent of all deaths. More mass transit will decrease those numbers," Paibul said.

"Transparency and public participation in projects will reduce corruption and improper political interference in mega projects," he added.

Suwat said self-reliance in technology and human resources was needed if Thailand was to reduce construction costs and operating and maintenance expenses.

"Otherwise, we will have to import both technology and experts, as we do today," he said.

Nakorn of the SRT supported Suwat. He said the current Skytrain and underground services were dependent on foreign technology and experts.

"Half of the cost of these projects is for foreign companies' technology and experts. People who control their operation and maintenance are foreigners," Nakorn said.

Suwat suggested looking to Korea. "It has planned its mass-transit projects well. Instead of importing technology and experts, it funded its own human resources with the cooperation of the state, universities and industry.

"After the first project was completed it had a great skill asset able to develop a second, and so on. Now Korea is looking to export this talent and technology.

"We are still dependent on foreigners even after we have built two mass-transit projects," Nakorn said.

Kamol Sukin
The Nation

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Taxyway for jet planes, not for taxi cabs

Notes: This photo is from a forwarded mail. The related story is from

Wednesday, January 31, 2007 the name of safety

AoT has confirmed that the airport tax at Suvarnabhumi Airport would be raised, starting from February 1st, 2007. Domestic passengers will be charged 100 THB (from the original fee 50 THB) each. For international passengers, the airport tax will be 700THB instead of 500THB. The raise will increase AoT s income up to 20%.
On April 1st, 2007, the landing fee for chartered flights will also be increased by 15%.

It was reported that AoT needs more funding for the repairs of this airport.

Told You So

Remember when the local media was self-censoring itself during the last administration? Two experienced journalists were sacked after reporting about the cracks at the new airport. Finally, the truth cannot be hidden forever…
Special: Runway-cracks journalist vindicated
Story by Pravit Rojanaphruk, The Nation, Sunday, January 28, 2007

JUST TWO weeks after new reports of runway cracks at the multibillion-baht Suvarnabhumi Airport hit the headlines, Sermsuk Kasitipradit feels increasingly like a man vindicated.
His telephone is ringing off the hook with calls from local and international reporters and old acquaintances give him nods of approval.
Sermsuk was right all along.
This coming Wednesday, the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand has asked him to address members about problems at the airport and his ordeal of being sacked by the Bangkok Post two years ago for running an expose of the runway-construction crisis.
"The management of the Bangkok Post must be thinking hard about what will happen now," the 50-year-ol former chief reporter at Thailand's oldest English-language newspaper said.
Sermsuk was dismissed on August 29, 2005 after writing an August 6 front-page story telling of cracking on the new airport's western runway.
Citing unnamed sources, he reported that US aviation experts hired by then prime nimister Thaksin Shinawatra recommended reconstruction to repair large cracks in the runway.
That was swiftly followed by indignation from Thaksin, who lashed out, calling the report "seriously damaging to the country".
The newspaper bowed to prime-ministerial pressure and agreed to retract the allegations and apologise. Its retraction stated that while there were small cracks on the shoulders of the runway, its source wrongly claimed experts believed the runway needed reconstruction.
The Post launched an internal investigation, and Sermsuk and colleague Chadin Thepaval, the news editor at the time, were found to have acted negligently in publishing the story.
Sermsuk refused to accept the finding and was fired.
He tried in vain to get his source to confirm his comments and go on the record, The source is a businessman whose brother is close to some in Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai. He has inside knowledge of goings on at Subarnabhumi.
"After the story was printed Thaksin became upset and accused us of intentionally trying to undermine the government's credibility.
"My source disappeared. I knew something was wrong. It was a nightmare," Sermsuk recalls.
"The Bangkok Post chose to fire me. After 22 years [working for the paper] that's how I was treated."
Sermsuk insists he was a victim of political pressure, claiming his critical views of thaksin expressed in his for mer "Inside Politics" opinion-editorial-page column had made him a marked man.
The airport story was a convenient excuse for the paper to boot him out, he claims.
The management came under intense pressure to get rid of him, and two editors were "transferred" in critics believe to have been "politically motivated".
Sermsuk still considers Thaksin's record of news-media intimidation far worse than the present military government's.
"What [the junta] did was what juntas do. It's normal. It has tried to counter the power [of Thaksin]. It needs time to put its house in order. But if [censorship] affects the public interest then we must clash [with the junta]. Public interest must come first."
"A Time magazine reporter asked me why the Post did not defend me. I told hm it was politics, that there were more things behind the move. I believe to this day that politics were behind my sacking," he says.
He adds the action tarnished the Post's reputation.
Sermsuk has taken the newspaper to the Labour Court for alleged unfair dismissal and is seeking compensation and reinstatement.
A ruling will not be delivered until at least July, and the reporter often suffers bouts of self doubt. But, he reminds himself, those who know him understand him.
There is still bitterness about the lack of responsibility assumed by then editor David Armstrong, now the newspaper's chief executive.
Sermsuk insists Armstrong was at the editorial meeting when the story wa discussed. He claims Armstrong did not protest against running the article. But when the time came to shoulder responsibility, it was passed to him and Chadin.
"The owners of the paper lack journalistic courage, and that's why I have ended up like this," said ermsuk, who for the past two months has been working as a news editor for Isara News Centre, which covers the separatist conflict in the deep South.
"I want to urge [Armstrong] to reconsider whether he should take any responsibility."
Sermsuk has no regrets about his story, because it was in the public interest. "I simply did my duty."
"The Bangkok Post may be startled by the news [about the cracks}, but I hope Armstrong will give me a call. If he wants a reconciliation, my conditions include reinstating Chadin, now working for the United Nations.
"He still breaths journalism every day," Sermsuk said.
The Nation contacted Armstrong, but he declined coment.
"I'm happy with my work at the moment," Sermsuk said, adding his son studied at the prestigious Saint Gabriel's College close to his current workplace. Things are convenient.
And what about the airport/
"I have heard from my military sources that the situation is worse than is being reported.
"If corruption is behind it, then construction will have been shoddy. The worst-case scenario is that the airport may have to be shut down if fatal accidents are to be aboided."

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

In Crisis!

Can't believe what they have done with the construction and operation in this multi-billion-baht airport.
What's in the SWAMP is bursting out!

Due to the pavement cracks on runways, taxiways and tarmacs scattered over about 100,000 square metres of the airfield, there was an urgent repair on January 25, 2007.
It caused "four incoming flights had to be diverted to U-tapao airport in Chon Buri province for refuelling after circling over Suvarnabhumi for longer than 30 minutes.
The work forced approaching aircraft to queue up for the remaining eastern runway. Thai Airways International had its planes loaded with fuel to cope with the traffic congestion."
("Airport has safety pass held back", Bangkok Post January 27, 2007)

Experts believe that the cracks were caused by shoddy construction.
Dr Sumet Jumsai said...
"For the runways, repairs to the cracks must continue, but Airports of Thailand should sheet-pile both sides of the runways along their entire length. This should lessen the subsoil shift and reduce cracks on the apron's surface,"

"In the long run it may be necessary to pile all the aprons. The new runway east of the existing polder [a polder is a dyked area], slated for expansion, might be built sooner rather than later."

"In this respect the polder must not be expanded, and the new runway must not be land-filled. Instead the runway should be built above flood level on piers in order to allow flood water to pass under it,"
("Rescue Plan for Airport", The Nation, January 28, 2007)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Flubbed Fundamentals Force Fix

It's amazing that such basic design issues could have been so badly mishandled. But then, it's said that experienced companies had to bow out of the bidding process because they were unable to cough up the 30-40% surcharge, leaving the field to connected companies that had been set up specifically to bid for and win Suvarnabhumi projects.

1.5 billion baht needed to fix problems at new airport
Bangkok Post, Perspective, 2 January 2007

Problems at Suvarnabhumi Airport will require about 1.5 billion baht (US$41.7 million; euro31.7 million ) to fix, a top official said late Tuesday.

The airport began operating with great fanfare on Sept. 28, taking over both domestic and international flights from Bangkok's old airport at Don Muang.

However, several flaws immediately became apparent, including misplaced baggage, a shortage of toilets and seats at waiting areas as well as noise pollution.

"We have identified altogether 61 problems and the timeframe has been set for each," said Yodyiam Teptaranon, a member of the board of directors of the Airports of Thailand.

He said additional toilets would be built by April while air conditioning problems and the seat shortage would be fixed by February.

Priority will be given to problems involving runways and lengths of electrical wires that connect the main building to the planes, said Yodyiam.

Monday, December 25, 2006

New airport faces partial shutdown

Mistakes, graft found in almost all contracts
Bangkok Post, 25 December 2006

Poor construction at Suvarnabhumi may force parts of the new airport to be shut down for repairs. This would open the way for the recently abandoned Don Muang airport to be re-opened to serve Bangkok's air traffic needs.

Deputy Transport Minister Sansern Wongcha-um said yesterday that following a recent report on the problems facing Suvarnabhumi airport, it was likely that part of the new facility would have to be closed and Don Muang airport would pick up the slack.

Some people had suggested the airport, open less than three months, be completely closed for a revamp, with flights being redirected to Don Muang until the improvements are completed, Mr Sansern said. He was opposed to that. Trying to move everything back to Don Muang would cause chaos.

The Council for Democratic Reform _ now the Council for National Security _ asked about the readiness of Suvarnabhumi airport just after the Sept 19 coup, but executives of the Airports of Thailand (AoT) had insisted the airport was ready for the scheduled Sept 28 opening.

Opening the airport before it was completed had inevitably led to problems. If the opening had been delayed to allow work to be finished properly, the airport would have started on a more solid footing.

The new AoT board appointed after the coup has discovered physical and managerial problems at Suvarnabhumi airport.

Board member Yodyiam Theptranont, who heads a sub-panel investigating the problems, said the repairs would take a long time. He could not give a timeframe.

Mr Yodyiam's report to the AoT board outlined a lengthy list of complaints and deficiencies, along with a list of recommendations on fixing the problems.

The report attributed the faults to substandard construction, poor management and manipulation of designs and materials.

The report said the airport's information technology facilities were incomplete and the upper floors of the car park building have no drains, causing rain water to flow into elevator shafts.

Over 1,000 lamps had already burned out and not been replaced.

Mr Yodyiam said AoT lacked an official with direct responsibility for the airport's construction, which had posed an obstacle in getting swift repairs.

Another AoT board member, Tortrakul Yomnak, said many areas need repairs and a partial closure was likely.

Chaisak Angsuwan, director-general of the Civil Aviation Department, said that due to the persistent problems, the department could not issue a permanent licence for Suvarnabhumi airport.

It would, however, extend an interim aerodrome certificate for the airport for another six months in January, he said.

Mr Chaisak said the airport needed to meet all physical and operational requirements before it could be given a permanent certificate.

There were many cracks in the airport's taxiways, some serious and some not, and repairs would be time-consuming, he said. Many operations staff also have no expertise in using their equipment.

Adm Bannawit Kengrian, chairman of the National Legislative Assembly's committee on Suvarnabhumi airport, said his panel had discovered mistakes and irregularities in almost all the airport's contracts. Names of those believed responsible would be announced in two weeks.

Specifications in some contracts had been distorted, he said.

Salaries paid executives of the Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport Hotel were unusually high. Despite its claimed five-star status, the hotel had plywood doors.

An inexperienced contractor operated transformers that supply power to visiting aircraft and six transformers had burnt out. The cost of digging ditches around the airport was inflated to three billion baht and hiring security guards to five billion baht.

Any contracts where corruption was found would be scrapped, he said.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

An appalling case of neglect

Bangkok Post editorial, 16 December 2006

There has been no shortage of complaints about the facilities at Suvarnabhumi Airport and the corrupt practices involved in building it. Much of the blame for both belongs to the politicians who ordered it to be opened for full service before it was ready.

This premature birth guaranteed that the glitches that would normally plague any huge new technical operation of this complexity would be greatly increased and, sure enough, they were. The scarcity of seats and toilets, inadequate signposting and lighting, mismarked baggage conveyor belts, rampant pestering touts, arrival hall crush, taxi mismanagement, lax security, poor working conditions for immigration staff and uncontrolled noise pollution, among other things, were all so predictable they could easily have been averted by proper planning before, instead of panic measures after, the airport opened. Just observing passenger flows at Don Muang would have pinpointed obvious problem areas. What we can take great comfort in is that there have been no safety issues. A lack of professionalism might be evident in some aspects of the airport management, but not in the air traffic control and ''airside'' ground control operations. These controllers are the best in the business and the on-time arrival and departure times speak for themselves.

But no praise is due to those who skimped on such modern-day necessities as attending to the needs of disabled passengers, many of them tourists. The opinions and recommendations made by representatives of the disabled during the airport design and construction phases appear to have been largely ignored. This is in total contrast to the disabled-friendly subway system where everyone worked together and succeeded in getting it right.

So what happened at Suvarnabhumi? Why are toilets for the disabled located at the back of restrooms where wheelchair users experience great difficulty in getting to them? Why were their concerns that parts of the walkways were hazardous because they were slippery apparently not acted on? Why did no representative of the now-deposed Thaksin government consult with representatives of the disabled, despite many requests, to help plan the special facilities needed? And why did representatives of the disabled get so desperate they felt they had to resort to filing a lawsuit in the Administrative Court against those politicians who had neglected their plight?

The group behind this action, led by Lt-Col Torpong Kulkhanchit, chief of the Asia-Pacific Office of the International Handicapped Organisation, says it was fed up with having its petitions and requests ignored and worried about the dangers. It cited certain air-conditioning vents in the passenger terminal as constituting a hazard to children and those with poor vision as there were neither warning signs nor detectable special floor tiles with tactile surfaces to alert people. They also expressed concern about the stairs in the terminal having steel-wire guard rails with gaps they said were big enough for a child to slip through and the lack of any transport service at the airport specifically catering to the needs of the disabled.

The Association of the Disabled of Thailand predicts the airport will fail its first big test when the country hosts the 9th Asian ParaGames next year if faults are not fixed in time. They may well be because attitudes have changed since the coup and efforts are now being made to rectify all the costly blunders that could so easily have been avoided.

This is of particular relevance this week because on Tuesday Thailand, to its great credit, voted to support a United Nations convention to protect the rights of some 650 million people around the world with disabilities. The pact, regarded as the first major human rights treaty this century, will come into force when 20 of the 192 UN member states ratify it.

There is an enormous amount of work to be done to meet the standards required of the disabled-friendly nation we aspire to be. And, if we want to learn from our mistakes, we need go no further than the airport to find out how.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


It's interesting that despite the almost universal uproar about Suvarnabhumi Airport's toilets and other facilities, nothing is being done to correct even the easiest problems. Instead, one is regularly bombarded by radio and TV ads extolling the greatness of the new airport as a symbol of Thai pride. I suppose the goal is that if you hear them enough times, you will begin to believe that the airport isn't really that big a national embarrassment after all.

Here's a recent opinion piece in the good old Bangkok Post. We couldn't agree more.

Flaws at new airport need fixing
Boonsong Kositchotethana
Bangkok Post, 7 December 2006

More than two months have passed since the opening of Suvarnabhumi Airport on Sept 28, and it is a pity that many of the facility's drawbacks don't seem to be getting fixed. Unresolved problems which have irked travellers and those whose work evolve around the airport have grown in such magnitude that many are disgusted at the idea of going through, or working at, the airport. Judging from the hundreds of letters to newspapers and websites almost every day lamenting the hassles, and the news stories and editorials in many media detailing the airport's deficiencies and scandals, clearly not enough is being done to improve Bangkok's new international airport.

My recent personal visit to Suvarnabhumi served to confirm that little has indeed been done to correct the flaws, which unfortunately have given the facility a bad name internationally, rather than being the ''pride of Thailand''. There have been statements made by Transport Minister Theera Haocharoen and the Airports of Thailand Plc's (AoT) new board chairman Gen Saprang Kalayanamitr about the need to urgently address the problems, but the public has not seen any real action being taken.

It is a shame that some very easy fixes _ like enlarging display fonts, posting plentiful correct direction signs in locations where people can clearly see them, and adding more foreign languages such as Mandarin to the signage _ have not been carried out, even though these problems were identified well before the airport's opening. Many of the airport's restrooms are a disgrace to the country (which recently hosted the World Toilet Expo and Forum), with flushes not working properly, broken water taps, the absence of toilet paper and dirty, wet floors.

That is so much easier to tackle than building over 200 additional toilets at the airport, which AoT president Chotisak Asapaviriya has vowed to do, in the wake of scathing criticism from passengers and the public over the insufficiency of toilets there. It will take a while before these new toilets will be in service.

Several spots at the terminal are littered with rubbish discarded by construction workers and others working at the airport, due to the lack of cleaning and garbage collection. The area in front of the terminal has become extremely dirty, with cigarette butts and discarded chewing gum on the pavements. A poor welcome to a country.

Very poor lighting and the expanses of unpainted concrete make the terminal look so drab, and make working conditions for immigration officers difficult _ little wonder it takes so long for them to process passports. Poor lighting has also contributed to the recent spate of complaints from female employees on night shifts about being sexually harassed by construction workers and security guards. Why can't the AoT quickly install more lights where they are needed, and paint the walls and ceiling white to mitigate the problems?

Air-conditioning is another problem-plagued area which needs immediate attention, as it has been hot and sweaty on the top floor of the terminal and along the main walkways between terminal arms.

The public continues to put up with the lack of comfort, as the chairs there are only steel-framed with no padding, and cold!

One can witness the premature breakdown of the terminal's facilities. Lifts get stuck and the revolving doors at the terminal's entrances do not operate properly.

What I have dwelt on so far are just some of the fixes which can be done quicker than the mountains of bigger improvements, like widening the egress for arriving passengers and constructing more restrooms _ if the AoT is really serious about correcting the flaws.

It is good news that the AoT's new chairman, Gen Saprang, has ordered all relevant contracts, fraught with alleged widespread corruption, to be examined and made available for public vetting.

But as important as netting the crooks, Gen Saprang should make the improvements at the airport a top priority, as well as making AoT management and other parties involved such as contractors, suppliers and designers accountable for the flaws at Suvarnabhumi.

Boonsong Kositchotethana is Deputy Assignment Editor (Business), Bangkok Post.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

No going back to Don Muang

Is it any wonder? If the low-cost airlines were allowed to return to Don Muang, it would spark a mass migration of airlines and passengers back to the old, but more efficient and functional, airport. What a fiasco.

Transport says no swift return to Don Muang
Bangkok Post, 29 November 2006

The Transport Ministry is determined to operate Suvarnabhumi as Bangkok's only international airport and has dismissed a push by low-cost airlines to have Don Muang re-opened to them.

Key government agencies, including the Aviation Department, the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning and the National Economic and Social Development Board, held another round of talks yesterday to seek a common position on the future of Don Muang.

The talks were called after repeated requests from low-cost airlines that they be allowed to shift their operations back to Don Muang from Suvarnabhumi.

Deputy Transport Minister Sansern Wongcha-um insisted after the meeting that Suvarnabhumi would remain the capitals' single airport at least for the time being because a change after Suvarnabhumi's opening in late September would just cause more confusion.

He acknowledged the problems of low-cost airlines which had earlier complained about high aircraft parking fees and incomplete infrastructure at Suvarnabhumi.

He has promised to find solutions to their problems by the end of January, when the government and the no-frills airline operators will meet to discuss the problems.

The deputy minister has not ruled out a return of budget airlines to Don Muang airport in the long run.

''Suvarnabhumi airport was designed from the start to be the one and only international airport. It has just been opened. An early return [to Don Muang] would be quite weird. But if Suvarnabhumi is saturated in the future, a return will be possible. Today there is no clear reason for a U-turn,'' Mr Sansern said.

Don Muang is now used for chartered and special flights only while all regular commercial flights use Suvarnabhumi.

He suggested Don Muang be developed into an aircraft maintenance centre.

A source at the ministry said low-cost airlines had asked for the return to Don Muang because Suvarnabhumi's vast space did not facilitate the ground operations of their staff.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Not ready for primetime

At last the authorities have come to the same conclusion. Now let's move back to Don Muang while things at Suvarnabhumi are straightened out.

Airport not fit to open 'officially' for six months
Committee says Suvarnabhumi still has far too many issues involving safety and noise
By Post reporters
Bangkok Post, 19 November 2006

A panel overseeing the opening of Suvarnabhumi airport has found the facility unfit for an official opening, recommending it be put off for six months.

Chalit Phukphasuk, the committee chairman and air force chief, said safety and noise prompted the panel to urge delaying the airport's inauguration, which was expected this month.

The committee, appointed by the Council for National Security (CNS), wrapped up its work on Friday.

"There is a load of problems to be fixed. The airport will not be ready for the official opening for six months," he said. "Since His Majesty the King will preside over the opening, it is imperative that everything is ready."

Suvarnabhumi airport's modern and stylish design has been eclipsed by problems since the Sept 28 opening to commercial flights, he said.

Long waits for luggage, hold-ups at check-in counters, roof leaks and inadequate toilets highlighted the early days of operations.

Weeks later, uneven and cracked taxiways and parking bays were found at the airport. Current issues include sexual harassment of female staff by men who work for outside contractors and noise pollution.

The airport's plan to close one of its two runways for four hours every night is raising suspicion it has something to do with cracks on aircraft taxiways and parking bays.

ACM Chalit said noise problems are being attended to. Solutions include changing flying techniques for approaching aircraft and reallocating flight times.

He said Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT), which manages the airport, has also been told to improve safety measures before the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) inspects the airport in June next year.

The airport requires an aerodrome certificate from ICAO to permanently operate. It currently has an interim certificate from the Aviation Department.

ACM Chalit said he has reported the findings to CNS chief Gen Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont and Transport Minister Theera Haocharoen.

An official report on airport operations since opening on Sept 28, including an overview of problems, will be submitted later, he said.

ACM Chalit said the meeting on Friday was the committee's last. The panel was set up after the Sept 19 coup amid calls for the opening to be put off until it was declared fit for operations.

Suvarnabhumi airport, a much-touted project of the deposed Thaksin administration, is plagued with corruption scandals, some being investigated by the Assets Scrutiny Committee.

A newly-appointed AoT board, with assistant army chief Gen Saprang Kalayanamitr as a member and potential chairman, is seen as a CNS attempt to expose graft at the new airport.

Other alleged irregularities involve selection of duty-free shops and food stalls, bids for trolley procurement and the construction of car park buildings.

Issarapan Sanitwong na Ayudhya, national deputy police chief, yesterday said sexual harassment at the facility had been confirmed.

He said Chokechai Panyayong, THAI vice-president for ground services, said female staff were harassed, but had not filed complaints with police investigators.

Pol Gen Issarapan, however, said no complaints of rape or other violent crimes at the airport were lodged with police.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Stay Away From Blind Spots

Female airport staff 'fearful'
AoT: Sexual assault reports unfounded
Source: Bangkok Post, Saturday November 18, 2006

Female staff at Suvarnabhumi airport are working in a climate of fear as airport officials are turning a deaf ear to their complaints about inadequate safety measures at night. A woman ground staff member of Thai Airways International recalled being followed by men to the women's toilet area one night after her night shift had ended.

The toilet is on the sixth floor of the airport car park building. Emerging from the restroom, she was told by her husband that he had managed to get her out of harm's way.

''My husband told me that he had seen two men walking behind me to the toilet. Just to make sure that I would be safe, he left the car and followed them. That scared them away,'' said the woman.

Another female THAI employee said she was given lascivious looks on many occasions by construction workers in concourse C.

''Will it be possible to control access of staff, especially construction workers? This is an international airport and public safety should be the top concern. Imagine, even staff members feel unsafe in this place,'' she said.

Other female employees at the airport, including those working at the King Power duty-free shops, are also saying the same thing, she said.

They have lodged many complaints with the Airports of Thailand, demanding better safety measures. But the airport executives are doing nothing to bring improvements in this area, she said.

''We were just advised not to walk alone. We already go in groups. What we want to know is whether anything is being done to make the place more safer and reduce our fears,'' she said.

The airport is open all night with staff working in shifts to serve passengers. But most travellers are gone from the airport after flights bound for European cities take off around 1am.

It is this period between 1am and 3am that the female workers are most worried about.

Like any airline and duty-free shop officials, female cleaners also said that access to both male and female toilets in some locations was hard for guards to watch because the toilets were in security blind spots and facing the walls of concourses. They said no guard has ever been seen patrolling the toilet areas at night.

One cleaner said she was the only one in charge of the toilets in the whole area and now she had enlisted help from a fellow cleaner and they watch each other's backs.

Another female cleaner said rumours about sexual assaults were going around at the airport and victims were said to be employees of all levels. Although the rumours could not be confirmed, they have certainly scared the staff.

The corridor between gates 5 and 9 of the concourse C is identified as an unsafe area because there are stairs leading down to the basement, they said.

''I always pray when I'm working there because if I am in danger, no one will come to my help,'' said the cleaner.

Thousands of construction workers work each day in the passenger terminal and the concourses. Apart from construction of the subway link, they are also repairing floor tiles and power systems and decorating shops.

Reports about sexual assaults have also prompted the THAI labour union to complain about inadequate safety measures inside the airport to the firm.

Acting union leader Somsak Srinuan said that he has evidence that some of the union's female members were sexually harassed. Staff morale hit rock bottom after AoT executives dismissed the complaints as plain rumours, he said.

Reports about sexual and criminal assaults in the media in recent days prompted the AoT to arrange a press tour at the airport yesterday, where the AoT again insisted that the workers' fears were unfounded.

Passakorn Surapipit, airport deputy director for operations, admitted passages in some concourses were poorly lit and guarded insufficiently. He has ordered improvements, including more guards and surveillance cameras.

Although he had heard of rumours about sexual assaults at the airport, he said he had not seen anyone showing up to file a complaint.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Somroutai ‘s Blog

Somroutai ‘s Blog
The Nation (Media Group) staff shares her first-hand account of noise pollution from the Suvarnabhumi airport

Saturday, November 11, 2006

*** ไม่เชื่ออย่าลบหลู่ ***

เพิ่งได้รับ forward อีเมล์จากสมาชิกท่านหนึ่งของ blog นี้ ที่อ่านแล้วถึงกับขนพองสยองเกล้า
เลยขอนำมา post ไว้ ถือเป็นเรื่องเล่า (แนวสยองขวัญ) เรื่องแรกๆ เกี่ยวกับสนามบินสุวรรณภูมิที่เพิ่งเปิดใช้งานมาเกือบ 2 เดือนแล้ว
หลังจากเปิดสนามบินสุวรรณภูมิได้ไม่นาน มีพนักงานของศุลกากร
ที่ทำงานกะกลางคืน มองเห็น หญิงสาวผ่านเข้าออก เสา ต้นนี้
อย่างผิดสังเกตุ พนักงานจึงแจ้งให้หัวหน้า รปภ.งานทราบ
จึงแจ้งช่างก่อสร้างให้ทำการเคาะ ปูนที่เสานี้ออกมาหลังจากเคาะออกมาแล้ว
เนื่องจากว่า สิ่งที่อยู่ในเสานั้น คือ
*** ไม่เชื่ออย่าลบหลู่ ***
จุดรับกระเป๋า ขาเข้าต่างประเทศ

Below is a message that has been forwarded around the net community....As you read it, please be aware that there's a Thai saying, "if you do not believe it, do not make an insult about it."
Customs officials who work on the night shifts have seen a young woman walking in and out of this pole. So, they told the security staff about it.
When the rumour has been wide spreaded, the airport management decided to knock off part of the concrete. The, they found a dead body, a young woman believed to be a construction worker who was raped and murdered, casted inside this concrete pole...Now, the pole has been fixed. It's the one near the Customs Staff Office in baggage claim area of the International Arrival Hall.

Monday, November 06, 2006


under the grossy departure walkway.. when I look down, i really see the staff take a rest and sleeping, in a propper arrangement partition/room........ so post-modernnnnnn.

"What A"

What others have said...
The following is one of the comments posted on "Sawasdee Suvarnabhumi", a section in The Nation's website.
"What A" by 19/10/2006 20:27
The BKK airport is a beautiful building but it is being run in a very unprofessinal manner: Here are 10 issues in need of immediate action:
[1] Why are Taxi and Limo touts allowed to annoy airriving passengers by blocking the arrivals area?

[2] The signage for airprt tax collection is pathetic

[3] Why does the airport collect airport tax in cash? It just perpetuates Thailands third world status. Do what all other professinally airports do get the airlines to include it on ther ticket prices?

[4] Why is it impossible to use the official Limo service only by using cash? Why not take credit cards?

[5] Why does the airport not allow Thai Airways to provide professional competition for Limo services?

[6] Why does the airport persist in treating those passengers on arrival like animals?

[7] Why does not the BKK airport admit its mant failings and subcontract all the services involving the smooth running of the airport to an international service company with experience in running large airports?

[8] Why is the BBK airport so unprofessionally designed? Take a look at the websits from Narita, Hong Kong and Changi to see how an airport web site should be designed?

[9] Why is it impossible to send an e-mail to the AOT to tell them what a mess they are making of trying run their beautiful airport?

[10] Why was the GM of Suvarnabhumi airport employed? He previously worked in a bank. He has never had any international airport management experience. How it shows

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Danger Zone

Another view from the paking building here..
Beside the bad circulation of traffic in the building, the staircase was also badly designed.
At every corner of the platform, they wrapped these tapes around the holders to prevent kids or anyone from dropping off the staircase.

Day 1

I had a chance to be at the Suvanabhumi Airport on September 28, 2006, the first day that it was opened for public, to pick up my younger brother who was coming back from Chiang Mai around midnight.

It was chaotic! The signage was confusing. The traffic was uncontrollable on the drive-way in front of the arrival hall.

So, I went up to the parking building. While I was driving up to the long que, I saw about eight people trying to jot down all the license plate numbers on coupon-like papers. Hmm, they even charged the parking fee on the first day…On the way out to the exit, see the picture above, there were two women sitting in the booth, using a hand-held calculator to sum up the fee. One man was helping them collecting the coupons.

But, when I went there again, two days later, I found that parking was free of charge. Well, I guess those who have got the parking service concession are on holiday.

This is only a personal account to the new airport. I’m sure many have their experiences to share.

Read about other major problems

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