Relocation of security screening points likely
A plan to relocate the security screening points at Suvarnabhumi airport to free up space for commercial development has come under fire for going against the principle of building an airport. Security screening spots in the passenger terminal of Suvarnabhumi airport will be moved away from the embarkation gates into an area in front of the immigration checkpoints in October to pave the way for commercial development, according to airport director Serirat Prasutanont.
Mr Serirat, also the acting president of the Airports of Thailand (AoT), said yesterday the planned change from Oct 1 would create plenty of room near the terminal gates for commercial development.
According to him, the relocation of the screening points would also boost security because passengers will then be screened before accessing the restricted zones of the terminal. They would no longer be required to queue up for security checks at the gates.
The change is also in line with a recommendation of the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
Mr Serirat said some major airports in places like Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan have already taken such steps and relocated the screening points.
An aviation source, however, said that moving the checkpoints would contradict the general principle of building an airport, which is safety before commercial interests.
The AoT may be in it for the profits as larger commercial space, which will likely be set aside for duty-free shopping, would mean bigger revenue.
The structure and procedure changes will also give passengers more time to spend in duty-free shops, the concession for which the AoT has given to a private firm.
If there are more shoppers, the revenue earned from profit-sharing for AoT would also go up, said the source.
According to Mr Serirat, in the long run, the AoT hopes to earn more from non-aviation investments. Currently, 60% of the authority's income comes from aviation-related activities and the rest from the non-aviation sector.
The AoT sees the trend reversing in the future.
Also, an empty area covering 1,140 rai to the northeast of the airport compound will be developed into a so-called Airport Business Centre, worth over 10 billion baht, consisting of a convention centre, an export exhibition centre, office buildings, shopping malls, a hotel, a hospital, entertainment venues and health care facilities, if the AoT is allowed to have its way.
He said AoT would invite private investors to bid for the projects.
''The authority is considering the possibility of allowing a single group of investors to undertake all the projects or selecting different firms, depending on their expertise, to handle them,'' he said.
A 723-rai empty plot in the eastern part of the airport would be transformed into an aviation institute and a high-end industrial estate.
Mr Serirat said the AoT board should receive the details of Suvarnabhumi airport's second phase development plan from its consultancy late next month. After that, the board will seek approval from the cabinet for implementation.
The 70-billion-baht second phase development plan would kick off with the construction of a third runway, he said.
The project is expected to be completed by 2013, one year ahead of its scheduled completion.