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Bangkok airports prepare themselves to face potential chaos

Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport prepared itself to facilitate passengers during the political protest with AOT warning passengers to leave home to the airport up to four hours before departure. Additional measures have been also taken to ensure plenty of car park spaces as well as facilities for potentially stranded passengers.

BANGKOK – Generally, Thailand tends to face troubles at last minute. But this time, the Airports Authority of Thailand (AOT) already unveiled contingency plans as Bangkok blockade is due to start on January 13. On that day, the anti-government protest group PDRC (People’s Democratic Reform Committee) under the leadership of Suthep Thaugsuban will block government’s institutions as well as blocking 12 areas within Bangkok.

The PDRC announced to particularly block six vital intersections allowing into inner Bangkok. They are the Lat Phrao five-way intersection, Victory Monument, Pathumwan, Lumpini park (Sala Daeng intersection), Ratchaprasong and Asok. Unfortunately for air passengers, Asok and Lumpini Park/Rama IV are the roads driving into the tollway to Suvarnabhumi airport while Lat Phrao intersection is the main artery to Don Mueang airport.

At AOT, staff has been prepared to deal with the expected chaos. Mrs. Rawewan Netrakavesna, General Manager of Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport, explained that “since the 5th January 2013, the political protest is ongoing in many areas of Bangkok, which may cause additional traffic and may affect travels to and from the airport. Therefore, we would like to recommend that passengers prepare travel time to Suvarnabhumi Airport at least 4 hours before their departure time and to avoid routes nearby and around the protests. Also, we would highly recommend the usage of Airport Rail Link, together with the Bangkok Mass Transit System (BTS) SkyTrain, the Metropolitan Rapid Transit (MRT) or the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) which can also connect to other modes of public transportation.”

To maintain consistent passenger services during the political protest, Suvarnabhumi Airport has coordinated with the airport’s public transportation providers a contingency plan in case of passengers being unable to travel to and from the airport. Among the adopted measures, routes for Shuttle Bus between Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang International Airports will be changed, airport personnel will assist passengers while information boards will advise passengers using public taxi and airport limousine to avoid areas near the political protest.

“We are following the orders of the Ministry of Transport to all agencies under the Ministry’s jurisdiction: Suvarnabhumi Airport has prepared its Long Term Parking area as a public car park and has prepared Shuttle Bus services for those wishing to travel in and out of Bangkok, to and from nearby public transportation stations, such as the Airport Rail Link, BTS SkyTrain and SRT,” added Mrs. Netrakavesna.

“Suvarnabhumi Airport is prepared to facilitate passengers in other areas as well, such as the set up of an Airport Operation Centre (AOPC) to coordinate help with all organizations and agencies within the airport, such as public offices, state agencies and airlines. The Centre will be opened 24 hours daily, with various airport personnel available at all times to assist and facilitate passenger affected by the current political situation as promptly as possible. The Centre is situated behind check-in counter row R, Departure Hall, 4th floor of the Passenger Terminal, telephone number 0-2132-9950 or 2, facsimile number 0-2132-9951. Furthermore, Suvarnabhumi Airport has allocated waiting areas for passengers missing their flights due to the travel uncertainties from Bangkok.”

Additionally, from January 10th, AOT will deploy a group of facilitation personnel, from various organizations such as the Association of Thai Travel Agent (ATTA), Thai Hotels Association, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), etc. to assist passengers near the AOT Information Counter, Arrival Hall, 2nd floor of the Passenger Terminal.

At Don Mueang airport, plans include the conversion of the air cargo building into a car parking lot to accommodate additional car. The Ministry of transport is also considering putting a shuttle train in service from Don Mueang Airport station to a rail station closer to the city centre.

Meanwhile, at a press conference organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for embassies and foreign media, MFA permanent secretary Sihasak Phuangketkeow told diplomats that embassies’ access will be kept opened. He also reiterated that airports would not be blocked by protesters as it had been the case back to 2008 at Suvarnabhumi and Phuket. Blocking roads will already create enough troubles to everyone. The government will deploy some 14,000 security forces will watch Bangkok shut down to assure safety to everyone.

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Luc Citrinot a French national is a freelance journalist and consultant in tourism and air transport with over 20 years experience. Based in Paris and Bangkok, he works for various travel and air transport trade publications in Europe and Asia.