Don Muang was Thailand’s main gateway airport until the new Suvarnabhumi Airport opened six years ago.
As airlines moved to the new airport, Don Muang became a virtual ghost airport, with a sprinkling of low-cost airlines and small operations using it. The only scheduled services out of Don Muang are flown by Nok Air.
Passenger traffic fell from more than 38 million passengers a year to fewer than three million.
Traffic at Suvarnabhumi, however, has expanded much faster than expected, and it is has already surpassed its operating ceiling of 45 million passengers a year. The go-ahead for the construction of Phase 2 of the airport has been given, but this will take time.
In the meantime, airlines are being offered substantial discounts to move back to Don Muang.
Tassapon Bijleveld, CEO of Thai AirAsia, said the decision to move to Don Muang was taken “in line with AirAsia’s own growth plan”, and would enable the airline to “manage its cost more effectively and provide passengers with improved service”.
“The uncongested Don Muang airport is sure to prove a benefit to AirAsia when it boosts its fleet of Airbus A320s to a total of 48 and welcomes more customers,” he said.
“The airport’s location also makes it conducive to further travel. Prospective travellers should have confidence in what Don Muang has to offer.”
However, with most of the world’s major airlines till operating from Suvarnabhumi, passengers are going to have to make extra allowances for travel time from Don Muang to Suvarnabhumi if they fly into Bangkok on AirAsia and then out on, say Thai Airways International.
The Bangkok Post reported a week ago that discounts of up to 95 per cent would be offered for airlines making the switch back to the old airport. The discounts will be gradually phased out over three years.
So from an abandoned and flooded waste of space six months ago, Don Muang, it appears, is now getting a new lease on life.