HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]: 

Thailand installs laser equipment to check passengers for SARS

Airport Authority to hike landing fees

AirAsia heads for Macau

Thailand installs laser equipment to check passengers for SARS

Thailand denied suggestions that it could be susceptible to a second round of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic.

Responding to fears that Thailand could see more SARS cases following the recent death of a woman from SARS in China, Dr. Charal Trinvuthipong, Director-General of the Department of Disease Control, noted that Thailand had never been home to an epidemic of the virus.

Dr. Charal stressed that the Ministry of Public Health was continuing to take the situation seriously, and was closely inspecting all passengers arriving from Beijing. In addition, the ministry is installing laser thermometers to check temperatures of passengers from Beijing.

“I urge the public to have confidence in the measures drawn up by the Ministry of Public Health, which has consistently carried out its role. Don’t be overly concerned about the news. If the situation changes, the Ministry of Public Health will inform the public immediately,” he said. (TNA)

Airport Authority to hike landing fees

On April 24, in a move that is bound to cause disquiet among airline operators, the Airport of Thailand Public Co. Ltd. said that it would introduced a 20% increase in landing fees for domestic and international flights in October in order to generate revenue for the construction of Bangkok’s new Suvarnabhumi Airport. Airline companies currently pay average landing fees of 40,000 baht per aircraft, depending on the weight of the plane.

Acting President of Airport of Thailand Public Co. Ltd. Bancha Pattanaporn also revealed that next year would see a rise in passenger tax from 500 baht to 700 baht for international passengers and from 50 baht to 100 baht for domestic passengers. Explaining what is bound to be an unpopular decision, he said that the authority desperately needed to generate extra revenue to invest in the construction of Bangkok’s new Suvarnabhumi Airport, as well as repay loans of around 70 billion baht to the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC).

He expressed hope that by raising fees, the authority would generate additional annual income of at least 700 million, while shrugging off suggestions that the rise would blunt Thailand’s competitive edge, noting that Thailand’s fees remained lower than nearly every country in the region, and that no adjustments had been made for the past seven years.

Meanwhile, in what will be hailed as a positive development for Thailand’s aviation industry, Lt. Suthara Huangsuwann, Chief of the Chiangmai Airport, said that plans to turn the airport into a regional aviation center were now 33% complete. Under the plans, the airport is being developed to cope with a rise in passenger numbers from 300 to 900 per day by the year 2006, as well as large aircraft such as Boeing 747’s on direct flights from Europe. It is hoped that the airport will eventually see an annual 38% increase in international passenger numbers, with 1.8 million foreign arrivals per year.

In the second phase of development, the airport’s runways will be extended to 3,400 meters, pending the announcement of an environmental impact assessment. Progress on the airport’s transformation into a regional aviation hub will be measured in terms of passenger numbers and aircraft arrivals.

Upgrading the airport will form only one part of the province’s development, which will also see adjustments to tourist attractions in order to pull in more visitor numbers. Over the past six months, the Chiangmai Airport has serviced 9,869 commercial flights, up 7.76% on the same period in 2003, with 1,376,468 passengers, an increase of 18.34%. It has also seen the export of 12,510 tons of goods, representing a 3.19% rise from the previous year. (TNA)

AirAsia heads for Macau

Flights to Commence June 2004

AirAsia is set to begin services to Macau from its hub in Bangkok International Airport and Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) respectively. The Bangkok - Macau flights will commence on June 15, and will be operated by AirAsia’s operation in Thailand.

Macau will be AirAsia’s 3rd international destination out of Thailand, after Singapore and Malaysia. AirAsia will offer daily flights from 999 baht one way for the new Bangkok-Macau service.

“We recognize the tremendous potential in Macau as a tourist center and with the existing infrastructure and lower operational costs, AirAsia’s low fare provides a winning formula for the Bangkok-Macau route. We’re excited to commence services to Macau and we are confident that our low fares will boost tourism and bring a brand new travel experience to the people of Macau and the neighboring region,” said Tony Fernandes, group chief executive officer, AirAsia.

Earlier this year, AirAsia’s joint venture with Shin Corp in Thailand has spurred many people in Thailand to travel domestically and internationally. The airline has carried over 200,000 guests since February. AirAsia Thai operations presently offers daily flights to Phuket, Hat Yai, Chiang Mai, Khon Kaen, Udon Thani (Vientiane, Laos), Chiang Rai, Nakhon Ratchasima, Singapore, Johor Bahru, and Kuala Lumpur from Bangkok International Airport. The airline will commence a third Malaysian flight to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah from June 1st onwards.