In the shadow of a military coup that took place just a week earlier, Thailand opened its flagship new international gateway airport at the end of September with much smoother-than-expected operations.

Bangkok's new Suvarnabhumi airport opened on 28 September with little fanfare, the opening coming in the aftermath of a military coup that brought down the government of prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The new airport, which replaced the ageing Don Muang facility, was a pet project of sorts for Thaksin, who was ousted in a bloodless military coup while in New York. Thaksin is now in the UK and it is considered unlikely that he will seek to return to Thailand in the near future.

Ahead of the opening of the new airport IATA and other industry groups expressed concern that it would not be ready in time, and some were lobbying the government to postpone it. But operator Airports of Thailand and main user Thai Airways International reported few major troubles in the first weeks of operation, despite the fact that office and shop fitting-out work was still taking place in some areas as the first passengers flew in and out.

Relatively minor problems were reported in the early days, mainly related to delays in the delivery of checked bags to arriving passengers. There were also occasional power outages and computer system shutdowns, but for the most part authorities said they were not having any major impact on flight operations.

The new Suvarnabhumi airport, which is also known as New Bangkok International Airport and is located 27km east of Bangkok, opened around four decades after planning first began. With its two runways, the airport is able to handle 45 million passengers annually in its first phase and expansion work is expected to begin soon as that throughput is likely to be reached in only a few years.

Source: Airline Business