Bangkok Post – Visa waiver brings surge in Thai-China flights

Aerothai doing its part to improve air traffic handling capacity and management

Tourists walk through the Suvarnabhumi airport passenger terminal on April 11 this year. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)
Tourists walk through the Suvarnabhumi airport passenger terminal on April 11 this year. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)

The number of flights between Thailand and China has risen to 55,000 in the past eight months since the two countries signed a mutual visa exemption agreement, according to the Ministry of Transport.

The 55,433 flights from October last year to May represented a 213% increase from the same eight-month period a year earlier, Deputy Transport Minister Surapong Piyachote said on Saturday.

The ministry projects that 86,150 flights will operate between the two countries in the fiscal year that ends on Sept 30, he said.

Currently, flights from China operate at Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Samui and Krabi airports. Flights to and from economic hubs like Chengdu in southwestern Sichuan province have recorded a noteworthy increase.

Over the past eight months, 5,896 flights were recorded to and from Chengdu, with expectations of the number reaching 8,850 by year-end.

Mr Surapong said he had asked Aeronautical Radio of Thailand (Aerothai) to expand capacity to manage increased flight volumes.

Aerothai is enhancing air traffic service efficiency through new parallel routes, upgraded technology systems, improved airspace structure and management guidelines, he said.

Plans include a new air traffic management system and installation of systems to improve capacity and efficiency through air traffic flow management (ATFM) practices.

The aim is to handle about 2 million flights by 2038, with a focus on personnel training, route adjustments, airspace design and setting up off-site backup air traffic management.

Aerothai president Nopasit Chakpitak said the company had started a project to develop U-tapao Airport and the Eastern Aviation City under its initial phase.

The phase primarily targets air cargo transport from the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), particularly flights from China, and positions the airport as a future aircraft maintenance hub, fostering business development, especially in the tourism, logistics and aviation sectors.

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