Suvarnabhumi Airport ( , ) ,
also known as (New) Bangkok International Airport,
is the international airport serving
Southeast Asia, and Bangkok, Thailand.
was officially opened for limited domestic flight service on 15
September 2006, and opened for most domestic and all international
commercial flights on 28 September.
The airport is currently the main hub for Thai Airways International
, Orient Thai Airlines
airport is located in Racha Thewa in
Phli district, Samut Prakan Province, about 25 km east of downtown Bangkok.
The name Suvarnabhumi
was chosen by King Bhumibol Adulyadej
and refers to the golden kingdom
hypothesised to have been
located somewhere in Southeast Asia.
Designed by Helmut Jahn
Architects, this airport has the world's tallest control tower
(132.2 m), and the world's third
largest single-building airport
(563,000 m²). Suvarnabhumi is one of the busiest airports
and is also a major air cargo
. The airport inherited the airport code BKK
Mueang after the older airport ceased international
A modern motorway connects the airport, Bangkok,
and the heavily industrial Eastern Seaboard of Thailand
where most of the manufacturing for export takes place.
Border between the concourse and the
terminal seen from the arrival area
Inner courtyard as seen from the
luggage claim room
Inner courtyard and terminal structure
The churn of the milk ocean sculpture
inside the departure hall
Land purchase, early construction
Planning of a second international airport for Bangkok started in
the early 1960s. The process was slow from the start: as early as
1968, critics were already charging that the project was "five to
seven years" behind the main schedule.
The 8,000 acre (32 km²) plot of land occupied by the airport
was purchased in 1973, but the student
on 14 October of the same year was followed by the
overthrow of the military government of Thanom Kittikachorn
and the project was
shelved. After a series of ups and downs, the "New Bangkok
International Airport" company (NBIA) was formed in 1996. Due to
political and economic instabilities, notably the Asian financial crisis
of 1997, the
civil construction began six years later in January 2002 by the
government of Thaksin Shinawatra
The airport is located in a once low-lying marsh, formerly known as
Nong Ngu Hao
( , lit. "Cobra
which took 5 years (1997 - 2001) to clear make a land reclamation
. In 2005, the construction
supervision and management was transferred to the Airports of
Thailand PLC, while the NBIA company was dissolved.
50% of the airport's construction cost was covered by Airports of
Thailand, while the another 50% was from a friendly agreement of
AOT and JBIC, Japan Bank for
. Airport-related procurement followed
JBIC's stringent guidelines for transparency and openness.
populism regarding the airport as being built for passengers, Thai
and foreigner exporting companies in the area for a long time
wanted a round the clock airport built along with a modern motorway
between factories, Bangkok, and the port of Laem Chabang.
Early construction, airport tests, and official opening
The airport was due to open in late 2005, but a series of budget
overruns, construction flaws, and allegations of
plagued the project.
A further problem was the belief that the airport was haunted by
spirits, and sightings of ghosts by superstitious construction
workers, so that on 23 September 2005, the Thai airports authority
held a ceremony with 99 Buddhist monks chanting prayers to calm
Symbolic first test flights involving two Thai Airways aircraft
were held on 29 September 2005, a previously announced deadline for
Full tests of the airport, with seats sold to the public, took
place on 3 July and 29 July, 2006. Six airlines – Thai Airways International
, Thai Air
, Bangkok Airways
the airport as a base for 20 domestic flights. The first
international test flights were conducted on 1 September 2006.
aircraft, B747-400 and A300-600, simultaneously departed the airport on
9.19am to Singapore and Hong
At 3.50pm the same aircraft flew back and
made simultaneous touchdowns on runways 19L and 19R. These test
flights demonstrated the readiness of the airport to handle heavy
September 2006, the airport started limited daily operations with
Jetstar Asia Airways operating
three flights daily to Singapore and Thai
Airways International operating some domestic flights to
Mai and Ubon Ratchathani. Bangkok
moved on 21 September, AirAsia
and Thai AirAsia
followed suit on 25
September and on 26 September Nok Air
to Suvarnabhumi Airport. During this initial phase, as well as in
the previous tests, the airport used the temporary IATA code
Suvarnabhumi officially opened at 3:00am on 28 September 2006,
taking over all flights from Don Mueang. The first flight to
arrive was Lufthansa Cargo flight
LH8442 from Mumbai at
The first commercial arrival was from Japan Airlines
at 3:30am. The first passenger
arrival was Aerosvit flight VV171 from
Kiev at 4:30am, and the first cargo departure was
Saudi Arabian Airlines flight
SV-984 to Riyadh at
Aerosvit also had the first passenger departure
(VV172 to Kiev) around 5:30am.
Many difficulties were recorded in the first few days of the
airport's operation. On the first day alone, sluggish luggage
claims were common - the very first passenger arrival by Aerosvit
took an hour for the luggage to start coming out, and some flights
did not have their luggage coming out even after four hours. Also
flights were delayed (Thai Airways claimed that 17 of 19 flights
were delayed that day), and there were also failures with the
check-in system. Subsequent problems included the failure of the
cargo computer system, and the departure boards displaying the
wrong information, resulting in confused passengers (especially as
unlike Don Muang, there were no "final calls" issued).
Months into its opening, issues such as congestion, construction
quality, signage, provision of facilities, and soil subsidence
continued to plague the project, prompting calls to reopen Don
Mueang to allow for repairs to be done. Expert opinions varied
widely regarding the extent of Suvarnabhumi's problems as well as
their root cause; most airlines stated that damage to the airport
was minimal. Prime Minister Surayud
decided on 16 February 2007 to reopen Don Mueang for
domestic flights on a voluntary basis, with 71 weekly flights moved
back initially, with no international flights allowed.
Capacity and safety issues
Problems with the tarmac
The Engineering Institute of Thailand conducted investigations at
the airport in late 2006 after signs of distress were spotted at
several locations in Suvarnabhumi's taxiways and taxilanes.
was found in five of the six
taxilanes and one of the six taxiways. Plastic deformation
of the asphalt
was observed near the
takeoff position of the runway. However, the investigators noted
that plastic deformation at this location was a common phenomenon
and only routine maintenance was required to repair the distress.
Aside from this surface distortion, both runways were in good
Further investigations found that that taxilane and taxiway rutting
was caused by separation of the asphalt binder
from the aggregate
surface due to prolonged
water infiltration into the asphalt concrete base course
, a phenomenon known as "stripping."
The 23-centimetre-thick base course is the top-most layer of the
tarmac. Core samples indicated that the concrete base course
material contained the correct job mix and aggregate gradation.
Below the base course are the binder
, the wearing course, and the cement-treated base
Detailed investigations found that water seepage was evident along
the rims of the expansion joints in the cement-tested base,
indicating that a large quantity of water was still trapped in the
(the bottom-most layer of
the tarmac). It was found that water trapped in the sand blanket
was fully confined with no connection to the pavement areas of the
airport. A later investigation by the AoT identified several
potential reasons for the trapped water in the sand blanket. The
AoT's findings were disputed by several experts.
The Engineering Institute of Thailand sent a formal warning to the
AoT in November 2006 about the urgent need to drain water from
beneath the tarmac, and the need for immediate action. "The AOT did
nothing about the problem," Suebsak Promboon of the EIT later
noted. "The situation might not have become this bad if the water
had been drained then."
In January 2007, ruts were discovered in the runways at
Suvarnabhumi. The east runway was scheduled to close for repairs.
Expert opinions have varied widely as to the root cause of the
ruts. Airport authorities and airline representatives maintained
that the airport was still safe and resisted suggestions that the
airport should be completely closed and all flights moved back to
On 27 January 2007, however, the Department of Civil Aviation
declined to renew the airport's safety certificate, which expired
the previous day. The ICAO requires
that international airports hold aerodrome safety certificates, but
Suvarnabhumi will continue to operate because the ICAO requirement
has yet to be adopted as part of Thai law.
-appointed panel of engineers assigned
to inspect the airport noted that damage to the airport was
"minute," and "common." According to a panel member, the problem
with the runways and taxiways are ruts, not cracks in the asphalt
as had previously been claimed. "This is a common type of damage.
You see it in airports all over the United States," said Noppodol
Phien-Wej, a panel-member. A spokesman for British Airways, also
said that "everything is normal," and that "we haven't heard any
complaints from the staff."
A two-week investigation led by Tortrakul Yomnak
, a chief engineer for
Airports of Thailand
leader of the anti-Thaksin
movement, later found that the runway was safe, and that cracks
could be repaired in as little as a few hours. At the beginning of
the investigation, Tortrakul had warned that the airport might need
to be closed for three years.
In a public statement on 15 February 2007, the EIT again strongly
recommended that trapped water should be drained out immediately to
minimise the potential spread of cracks. Karun Chandrarangsu,
president of the Engineering Institute of Thailand noted,
"Suvarnabhumi is like a patient in a coma who continues to suffer
from severe bleeding. Stopping the blood flow now is more urgent
and important than debating what caused the injury."
The military junta
used allegedly shoddy
construction at the airport as one of the justifications for its
overthrow of the Thaksin government, and it later purged the top
management of AoT. Critics noted that junta-led investigations were
unlikely to reveal an impartial picture of the airport's
shortcomings. "Problems are normal for any new airport. In our case
it's made more complex because everybody wants to run down the
former prime minister," noted Sumet Jumsai, a leading Thai
The airport has 2 parallel runways (60 m. wide, 4,000 m. and 3700
m. long) and 2 parallel taxiways to accommodate simultaneous
departures and arrivals. It has a total of 120 parking bays (51
with contact gates and 69 remote gates) and 5 of these are capable
of accommodating the Airbus A380 aircraft. With a capacity of
handling 76 flight operations per hour, both international and
domestic flights will share the airport terminal but will be
assigned to different parts of the concourse. In the initial phase
of construction, it will be capable of handling 45 million
passengers and 3 million tonnes of cargo per year. Between the
airport hotel and the terminal building are the two 5-storey car
park buildings with a combined capacity of 5,000 cars.
Plans to re-open Don Muang for domestic
January 2007, Thai Airways announced a plan to move some of its
domestic operations back to Don Muang
International Airport due to overcrowding.
Three days later, the
Ministry of Transport recommended temporarily reopening Don Muang
while repair work on the runways at Suvarnabhumi proceeds. The
recommendation is still subject to approval by the junta's Cabinet.
Airways said it would shift most of its domestic flights back,
keeping flights with high international passenger connections such
Mai and Phuket at
Suvarnabhumi. Bangkok Airways
have similar plans.
said it would not move
unless it could shift both its international and domestic
operations. Nok Air
Repair and upgrades
Airports of Thailand found that the cost of fixing 60 identified
problems at the airport would be less than 1% of the total airline
cost and the problems could be fixed in up to four to five years.
Dr. Narupol Chaiyut, a member of a committee overseeing service
problems at the new airport, estimated that 70% of the problems
would be fixed within 2007. 20 of the 60 problems were successfully
fixed by February 2007.
Accidents and incidents
Suvarnabhumi Airport has no records of any accidents or incidents
January 2007, due to work to the upgrading the taxiways, which was
suffered by a small crack, few incoming flights were delayed and
several flights were safety diverted to a nearby operating U-Tapao
International Airport in Rayong province.
On 26 November 2008, the airport was suffered from an illegal
occupying of the protestors who claims themselves as People's Alliance for
, closing the departure lounge and blocking exits,
causing almost three thousand passengers stranded within the main
terminal, another 350,000 were stranded inside the country, as all
flights were grounded for a short while.On 2 December 2008,
protesters agreed to leave the airport as they had been illegally
protesting and permitted the resumption of flights. Security
checks, clean-ups and recertification once the illegal occupation
ended delayed the airport from being fully functional until 5
Ireland warned its citizens to be on guard while browsing
in the airport's shops.
"We have received reports that
innocent shoppers have been the subject of allegations of suspected
and threatened that their cases will
not be heard for several months unless they plead guilty and pay
substantial fines," the Irish government wrote in a travel advisory
, which also advised shoppers
to retain all receipts to "avoid great distress."
Great Britain and Denmark also posted online advisories about hard-to-detect
demarcation lines between shops in Suvarnabhumi's sprawling
duty-free zone and warned shoppers to
be alert about carrying unpaid merchandise across the
Several thugs and cheats, the majority of them illegal taxi drivers
and tour guides, are to be found preying upon tourists within the
arrival hall. These scammers belong to major, politically-well
connected criminal groups: Kamnan Samruay, Boonruang Srisang, Sak
Pakphanang, the Pattaya Mafia and Phuyai Daeng. Measures to evict
them have proven ineffectual due to their being well connected with
top AoT executives (it is alleged that the head of the Pirap gang
is personally related to an AoT executive, while the Phuyai Daeng
enjoys good connections with influential civil servants in Samut
Phase two of the airport
Costing an estimated ฿
3.8 billion), the airport has 2 parallel
(60 m wide, 4000 m and 3700 m long)
and two parallel taxiways
simultaneous departures and arrivals. It has a total of 120 parking
bays (51 with contact gates and 69 remote gates), with five of
these capable of accommodating the Airbus
. The main passenger terminal building, with a capacity of
handling 76 flight operations per hour, co-locates the
international and domestic terminals, though assigning them to
different parts of the concourse. In the initial phase of
construction, it will be capable of handling 45 million passengers
and 3 million tonnes of cargo
year. Above the future underground rail link station and in front
of the passenger terminal building is a 600-room hotel operated by
Accor Group under the Novotel
the airport hotel and the terminal building are the two 5-storey
car parks with a combined capacity of 5,000 cars.
Long-term plans include four runways flanking two main terminals,
two satellite buildings and a low-cost terminal will have a
combined capacity capable of handling more than 135 million
passengers and 6.4 million tonnes of cargo a year were settled
clearly on the drawing board. The second phase of airport expansion
which involving the construction of a satellite building south of
the main terminal is expected to begin construction in 3 to 5
Airports of Thailand
the owner and operator
Suvarnabhumi Airport, announced on 21 July 2006 that a separate
terminal for Low-cost carriers will be built at the airport at a
cost of 600 million baht (15.8 million dollars). The budget
terminal will be located near Concourse A of the main terminal. It
is capable of handling more than 20 million passengers per year.
operating concept will be modeled after the LCC terminals of
Kuala Lumpur International
Airport and Singapore Changi Airport.
However, Don Mueang has also been reopened
and is being used by some low-cost domestic airlines, there are
concerns whether the LCC terminal at Suvarnabhumi will be needed
due to this and overcrowding concerns.
airport's passenger terminal is the world's largest passenger
terminal ever constructed in one phase at 563,000 m², and is also
currently the fourth biggest passenger terminal building in the
world, after the unexpected enlarging of Hong Kong
International Airport (570,000 m²), Beijing
Capital International Airport (986,000 m²) with the largest passenger terminal
being at Dubai International Airport (Terminal 3 is over 1,500,000 m²).
airport's air-traffic control tower is still remaining as the
tallest in the world's history at 132.2 m above the sea
Airlines and destinations
Suvarnabhumi Airport has 51 air bridges. Additionally, flights are
also able to park at remote locations on the ramp, from where
airport buses transport passengers to and from the terminal.
Cities with a direct international
airlink to Suvarnabhumi Airport
Taxis stand is located outside the
arrival hall on the same level
Suvarnabhumi Airport Express (under construction)
The construction of the City Airport Terminal in Makkasan
and a 28.6 km rapid transit link
to the new
airport started in July 2005 and are planned for completion in 5
December 2009, after multiple delays. The airport express,
informally known as the Pink Line and operated jointly with
's planned Red Line
commuter service, will connect with the BTS Sukhumvit Line
and MRT Blue Line
at Phaya Thai and Phetchaburi
stations respectively, offering airport-bound passengers a fast
15-minute limited stop journey from the city.
The standard gauge
line, forming the
eastern section of the Light Red line, will be 28.6 km long
and is elevated for most its length, running above existing railway
right-of-way, with a short at-grade connection to the airport. Both
non-stop Suvarnabhumi Airport Express
"stopping" Suvarnabhumi Airport City Line
services will be operated, with express journeys taking 15 minutes
and commuter trips 27 minutes.
suburban commuter train service between Hua Takhe (the nearest
station to Suvarnabhumi on the East line) and the northern suburban
city of Rangsit via downtown Bangkok and the old Don Mueang
Airport. The train also connects with BTS and MRT at Phaya Thai and
Phetchaburi stations respectively. Passengers pay a flat fare of
Bt30. A shuttle bus service linking the airport with Hua Takhe
railway station is provided by BMTA for Bt15. The train service is
currently not as popular as the bus service because the fact that
it requires a shuttle bus connection. The service will be stopped
when the Airport Express Link is completed.
The airport operates 4 airport express bus routes to downtown
Bangkok. The buses are air-conditioned with ample luggage space.
The fare is 150 baht for the entire route. Passengers can get on
the bus on the first floor of the terminal. The four routes are as
||Khao San Rd.
||(Bangkok Central Railway Station) via Victory Monument(by
Additionally, 12 air-conditioned city bus routes operated by
Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) serve the airport's dedicated
bus terminal. City buses offer a cheaper alternative of Bt35 flat
fare, compared with the airport express bus. However, passengers
must take a shuttle bus to the public transportation center's bus
terminal before they can board the regular city buses. The 12
routes available are as follows:
||via Seri Thai Rd.
||Latphrao MRT Station Ratchada-Latphrao Intersection
||via Rama IX Rd.
||Hua Lumphong (Bangkok Central Railway Station)
||via Onnut BTS station
||(Praeksa BMTA Depot)
||(Crocodile Farm BMTA Depot)
||Rangsit via Don Mueang and Ram Indra Rd.
||Rangsit via Don Mueang and Central Plaza LadPhrao
||Southern Bus Terminal via Ratchadamnoen Klang Rd. and Democracy
||Wong Wian Yai (The Great Circle)
||Out of Service
||Thonburi Housing Community - Central Plaza Rama II
||Future Park Rangsit via Dream World
Transport Company Bus
Transport Company Bus
Counter of the AOT Limousine
The airport has 5 main access routes. Among these the most
convenient route is via the Bangkok Chon Buri Motorway
(Highway No. 7). Another main airport entrance is in Samut Prakan
province via the expressway from Bang Na to Bang Pakong.
The airport has provided 5 convenient entrance routes. The main route is via
the motorway in the north of Bangkok, directly connecting Bangkok's downtown
and Chon Buri province, the industrial and
harbor city in eastern Thailand. However, another main
airport entrance is located in Samut Prakan province, connecting an
elevated highway in the south of Bangkok which lies
from Bang Na to Bang Pakong.
Additionally, flat-fare limousines
available at the Arrivals Level (2nd
services are provided by AOT
and by a number of other licensed Limousine companies
Metered taxis are available on the level of the arrival hall.
Since 1 February 2007 the 700 Baht
is included in the price
of flight tickets. Before that date, departing passengers had to
pay the tax to officials or vending machines before they entered
the immigration queues. The departure tax at Don Muang
International Airport was 500 THB per person.
- USA Today, "Bangkok's new airport opens to first commercial
flights", 15 September 2006.
- "New airport to be ready on time" , Bangkok Post, November 5, 1968.
- Handley, Paul M. (2006). The King Never Smiles. Yale University
Press, ISBN 0-300-10682-3.
- Richard Lloyd Parry, "Poo Ming – a blue ghost who
haunts $4bn airport", The Times, 2006-09-27
"THAI discounts tickets for historic test
flights", July 1, 2006.
- "PM Thaksin says Suvarnabhumi Airport ready in two
months", MCOT, 29 July
- Pennapa Hongthong, Just listen to our noisy nightmare, The Nation,
September 28 2006
- Petchanet Pratruangkrai, Suchat Sritama, Exporters pan new export fees, The Nation, 27
- Kurt Hofmann, LH Cargo set to be first into Suvarnabhumi, ATW, 28
- Suchat Sritma, Touch down...into chaos, 29 September 2006
- e-Travel Blackboard, Baggage ruffles up some feathers, but Suvarnabhumi
still a success, 29 September 2006
- The Nation, Airport shippers hit by computer failure, 2
- Some flight services will likely return the Don
Muang Airport, The Nation, January 29, 2007.
- The Nation, Engineers unable to agree on root cause of airport
cracks, 10 February 2007
- The Nation, THAI baulks at moving to Don Muang, 15 February
- Thailand backtracks on plan for second
international airport, Channel NewsAsia, 16 February 2007
- A Rough Takeoff for Bangkok's New Airport,
TIME, 25 January 2007
- New airport's east runway to close for repairs, return to
Don Muang mooted, Thai News Agency, MCOT, January 27,
- "Bangkok airport officially unsafe",
- Bangkok Post, Suvarnabhumi: No cracks, minor damage, 2
- Bangkok Post, Suvarnabhumi runway declared safe, 12 February
- The Nation, Competent pilot wanted, 15 February 2007
- The Nation, 'Can we get to work please?', 17 February
- Bangkok Post, Distress in the tarmac, 11 March 2007
- International Herald Tribune, Thailand's airport imbroglio grows, 2 February
- Bangkok Recorder, Airport president resigns, 3 February 2007
- ETNA, Thailand's new international airport head steps
down, 2 February 2007
- Asian Times Online, Cracks appear in Thai aviation-hub hopes, 7 February
- Use Don Muang during repairs: 2 airlines,
The Nation, January 27, 2007.
- Move to use 2 airports gets mixed reception,
The Nation, 31 January 2007.
- Bangkok Post, B1bn needed to fix terminal problems over four to five
years, 16 February 2007
- Some airlines afraid to use new airport,
The Nation, 26 January 2007.
- http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/7749399.stm Thai
protesters shut down airport
Thai protesters agree to vacate the airport
- http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32329225 MSNBC: Alleged scam
targets tourists in Bangkok August 7, 2009
Bangkok Post: Crackdown fails to stop airport gangs
September 6, 2009
- Bangkok Post, New Bangkok Airport - Now Aiming For July 2006
- http://enews.mcot.net/view.php?id=12033 AoT to spend Bt800
billion to upgrade Suvarnabhumi Airport
- " Work starts on link to Bangkok's new airport".
David Briginshaw, International Railway
Journal, April 2005.