Bangkok: Now an unplanned two airport ‘system’

  Image: Thai

Thai Airways is the market leader at Bangkok’s new Suvarnabhumi airport with around 43% of the domestic market and 37% of the international market. Although the airport has links to 17 European airports, there are only two to North America, both served by Thai Airways.

When Bangkok’s architecturally stunning Suvarnabhumi airport (BKK) opened for commercial flights in September 2006, it was supposed to spell the end for the downtown Don Muang (DMK) airport. However, as a result of some operational issues at the new airport and the desire of low-cost point-to-point carriers to be closer to their customers, the old airport was re-opened for limited domestic operations in March 2007. Bangkok has thus failed to join the likes of Munich (1992), Denver (1995), Oslo (1998) and Hong Kong (1998), where the new airport completely took over from the previous airport.

Image: Bangkok Airways

Bangkok Airways’ first commercial flight from Suvarnabhumi was a service to Sukthai Airport in northern Thailand on 21 September 2006. The airline operates six domestic routes from Suvarnabhumi.

Traffic could reach 50 million in 2008

Despite the uncertainties surrounding the new (and old) airports, traffic at Bangkok’s two airports has grown steadily in recent years after a period of calm in 2002/03 following the global ramifications of ‘9/11′ and the SARS outbreak.

CHT Bangkok 97-07

Source: Airports of Thailand

Since 1997, domestic and international traffic have both grown by on average 6.5% and Bangkok’s new airport ranked 15th in the world in 2006, just behind Hong Kong, making it Asia’s fourth busiest airport. Bangkok’s seasonality profile is reasonably flat with small peaks in January, March and August.

CHT Bangkok Seasonality

Source: Airports of Thailand

The traffic dips which can be clearly seen in September and October 2006 can be attributed to issues surrounding the opening of the new airport.

Thai AirAsia offers most domestic destinations from BKK

Domestic routes from Bangkok’s new airport are dominated by flights to Phuket and Chiang Mai. These two routes alone account for over half of all domestic seat capacity from BKK. In terms of airline market share just five airlines operate domestic routes from BKK.

Airline Frequency Share Capacity Share Number of Routes Bangkok Airways
Thai Airways 22.4% 42.7% 5
Thai AirAsia 35.3% 34.3% 10
Bangkok Airways 32.2% 20.6% 6
PB Air 6.6% 2.2% 6
SGA 3.5% 0.3% 1
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 18 February 200

Between April and December last year BKK handled 4.74 million domestic passengers, while DMK processed 4.66 million. Among LCCs, Thai AirAsia has remained at the new airport while Nok Air (in which Thai Airways has a major share) has moved back to Don Muang along with One-Two-Go. Read more about Nok Air’s base at Don Muang here.

17 airports served in Europe, but only two in US

Bangkok currently serves 107 international destinations, operated by 91 airlines on more than 1,800 weekly international departures. The most popular routes are Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo Narita, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur and Taipei. Seventeen European airports are served with non-stop routes, the most popular of which are London Heathrow, Frankfurt and Paris. In North America only Los Angeles and New York JFK are served, both daily, by Thai Airways. The leading airlines at BKK for international services are:

Airline Frequency Share Capacity Share Number of Routes
Thai Airways 31.0% 36.7% 60
Thai AirAsia 7.9% 4.6% 9
Cathay Pacific 2.7% 3.8% 4
Singapore Airlines 2.7% 3.5% 3
China Airlines 2.6% 3.1% 5
Bangkok Airways 5.9% 2.9% 12
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 18 February 2008

Image: Air Asia AdLCCs currently have around 8% of international capacity with Thai AirAsia joined by AirAsia, Jetstar and Jetstar Asia, Tiger Airways, Nok Air and Air India Express. The average aircraft size on international flights at BKK is 256 seats.New routes and airlines added in 2007 included Mihin Lanka to Colombo, Hong Kong Express to Hong Kong, Orient Thai to Kathmandu, Pacific Airlines to Ho Chi Minh City, SAS to Stockholm, Nok Air to Hanoi and Oman Air to Muscat.


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