Image via Sihasakprachum /

Thailand has been urged to urgently address safety, capacity and cost issues with a focus on Bangkok’s capacity-constrained Suvarnabhumi airport.

The call came from Iata, which warned that the country’s earnings from tourism were in jeopardy.

Iata wants the Thai government to adopt a strategy that would concentrate traffic at as the Thai capital’s major airport hub.

But major issues need addressing at Suvarnabhumi airport, which handles more than 52 million passengers a year.

The government must act on safety concerns about “soft spots” on the tarmac, taxiways and apron area.

Aircraft frequently get ‘stuck’ in the soft surfaces that are the result of sub-standard materials, according to Iata.

The extra power and towing needed to manoeuvre through these surfaces is a safety risk to ground personnel, ground vehicles and aircraft. Frequent surface repairs also create congestion.

“The constant resurfacing of the tarmac, taxiways and apron area with asphalt is an unacceptable patchwork solution. We literally need a ‘concrete’ solution,” said Iata director general and chief executive, Tony Tyler.

The airport faces a capacity crunch with passenger numbers exceeding the terminal design capacity of 45 million while demand is growing by 10% a year.

Iata wants to see terminal expansion and a third runway. A long-term masterplan to guide the development of Thailand’s airport infrastructure also needs to be developed.

“A permanent fix for the frequent tarmac, taxiway and apron closures for resurfacing will address near-term runway capacity concerns. But a runway takes a long-time to build, so it is important that that plans for the third runway continue to move forward,” said Tyler.

And he warned: “In the face of intense competition, Thailand’s aviation competitiveness is being chipped away with various new or increased taxes and charges.

“It is in Thailand’s long-term self-interest to review and abandon proposals that increase the cost of transportation. That includes taxes or charges.”

Tyler said: “Aviation is critical to Thailand’s economic success. It is the backbone of the tourism industry and provides critical global business links. We estimate that today aviation and related activities account for some 2 million Thai jobs and generate $29 billion in GDP. 

“And by 2035 we could see that grow to 3.8 million jobs and $53 billion in GDP. If realised, that potential 83% growth would have a broad and positive impact across the Thai economy. It is in jeopardy, however, unless key issues of safety, capacity and costs are addressed urgently.”