East runway to close for repairs. Return to Don Muang considered
The Thai government and airport authorities are mulling the possibility of reopening Bangkok's 90-year-old Don Muang Airport as added disruption to air traffic at the new Suvarnabhumi airport is expected Saturday following plans to close the east runway for repairs.
About 100 cracks were found at the new airport's taxiways and runaways and damaged sections are being closed off while repair work is carried out.
Transport Minister Admiral Thira Haocharoen told reporters Friday that this situation has raised the possibility of moving some flights back to Don Muang, especially for point-to-point domestic flights.
Don Muang was decommissioned as Bangkok's main airport in September when the new airport was officially opened but support for reopening Don Muang is gaining momentum as more troubles are reported at Suvarnabhumi.
The minister said that the move would speed up the repair work and help ease traffic congestion at the new airport, adding that a meeting with government agencies and airline executives is called next week to discuss the issue.
But Admiral Thira maintained that Thailand would not shut down Bangkok's spanking new US$3.8 billion international airport completely.
Nevertheless, he admitted that there were doubts whether it was appropriate to carry out repair work in sections before a detailed study of the damage at the new airport has been completed.
The Thai cabinet on Tuesday decided to convene a panel of independent experts to determine how serious the cracks are and what has caused them.
The airport, which was officially opened in September, was designed to handle 45 million passengers a year.
He said the problem would not only disrupt air traffic for several weeks, but also undermine the confidence of both the public and airlines.
More disruption is expected Saturday as the airport's east runway was to be be closed from 2 am until 6 am on January 27 (1900 GMT on Jan 26) for repairs, according to Passakorn Surapipith, deputy director of the Suvarnabhumi Airport.
He added that the 40 incoming and outgoing flights scheduled for this timeframe would be diverted to the west runway.