The Boeing 777-300 servicing THAI Airways daily flight TG609, bringing 337 passengers from Hong Kong, touched down at 12:55pm.
Present for the occasion was Nitinai Sirismatthakarn, President of Airports of Thailand (AoT), which operates six major international airports in Thailand, including Suvannabhumi and Don Mueang airports in Bangkok and Chiang Mai International Airport.
“This exercise today confirms the new terminal is operationally ready, but there is still some finishing touches to go, which will be complete in time for the grand opening on June 1,” Mr Nitinai said.
He added that the new terminal alone is expected to cope with passenger throughput of 6.5 million persons per year, which is the current official capacity of the entire airport today.
“The entire upgrade is to expand Phuket Airport’s capacity to 12.5 million per year,” Mr Nitinai explained.
Current aircraft capacity of Phuket Airport is about 250 flight arrivals per day, he said.
“And the airport can receive about 50,000 arrivals each day,” he added.
Mr Nitinai pointed out that from October through December 2015 alone, Phuket Airport handled 23,055 flights, carrying 3,385,527 passengers.
Phuket Airport Director Monrudee Gettuphan led the delegation to welcome the passengers and hand out souvenir gifts marking the event yesterday.
“In use at the new terminal are our upgraded Standard Operating Procedures for the security and convenience for passengers,” Ms Monrudee said.
The new airport security procedure called the “Advance Passenger Processing System” (APPS) was rolled out at six main international airports in December, with plans for 32 airports nationwide to upgrade to the APPS system throughout 2016.
The move forms part of on-going improvements to Thailand’s security systems, to ensure that local and international travellers can traverse the kingdom’s main gateways safely, reported the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).
“The APPS allows immigration officials to run instant background checks on inbound travellers, based on their passport information. Personal and visa details will be checked against a list of blacklisted or banned individuals. This ensures that any undesirables are stopped before they officially enter Thailand,” the TAT announced last year.
“It is not expected that the new system will add greatly to immigration queuing times, but the Airports of Thailand PLC (AoT) is thanking passengers in advance for their patience during the first couple of weeks of implementation as immigration officials train on the new system.”
It is also believed that the new system will not increase the time it takes to pass through immigration, as passenger details are instantly checked against a database held by the Immigration Department and blacklisted passengers are immediately flagged, the TAT said.
The APPS will be funded by adding 35 baht to the price of all tickets in and out of the kingdom for Thai and foreign travellers.
Ms Monrudee said she looked forward to the full completion of the new terminal.
“We still have the shops and restaurants to be fitted to the new terminal. All these upgrades together will provide much higher level of quality of service for all tourists using the airport,” she said.
The new terminal at Phuket Airport is part of a major overhaul of the airport costing more than B5.7 billion, which began more than two years ago.
Concerns have already been raised that Phuket Airport will be over-capacity soon after the expansion project is complete, and a B3 billion “upgrade to the upgrade” to raise passenger throughput capacity to 18 million has already been tabled. (See story here.)