Don Mueang International Airport is one of two international airports serving Bangkok, Thailand, the other one being Suvarnabhumi Airport. It was officially opened as a Royal Thai Air Force base on 27 March 1914, although it had been in use earlier. Commercial
flights began in 1924. Don Mueang Airport closed in 2006 following the opening of Bangkok’s new Suvarnabhumi Airport, before opening again after renovation on 24 March 2007.
Don Mueang was an important hub of Asia and the hub of Thai Airways International prior to its closure. At its peak, it served most air traffic for the entire continent, with 80 airlines operating 160,000 flights and handling over 38,000,000 passengers and 700,000 tons of cargo in 2005. It was then the 18th busiest airport in the world and 2nd in Asia by passenger volume.
Don Mueang is the main hub for Nok Air, Thai AirAsia and Orient Thai Airlines. All Thai Airways flights were transferred to Suvarnabhumi Airport, though the present government is urging them to return.
Don Mueang is a joint-use facility with the Royal Thai Air Force’s Don Muang Royal Thai Air Force Base, and is the home of the RTAF 1st Air Division, which consists primarily of non-combat aircraft. Vibhavadi Rangsit Road is the main route linking the airport with downtown Bangkok. The Uttaraphimuk Elevated Tollway, running above Vibhavadi Rangsit Road, offers a more rapid option for getting into the city and connects to Bangkok’s inner city expressway network. Originally, the only access was by rail service connecting with Hua Lamphong Railway Station in the center of Bangkok. The train station is across the highway and is linked with the airport by a pedestrian bridge. An RTAF golf course is located between the two runways. The course has no separation from the runway, and
golfers are held back by a red light whenever planes land. Many Bangkok BMTA bus lines stop around the airport, including lines no.29 from Thammasat University and Rangsit to Victory Monument and Hua Lamphong Railway Station, 59 from Rangsit to Sanam Luang, 95 Kor. from Rangsit to Bang Kapi, 187 from Klong 3 to Sipaya, 356 Green Line From Pak Kret to Don Mueang and Saphan Mai, 356 Red Line from Saphan Mai to Pak Kret, 504 from Rangsit to Bangkok Bridge, 510 from Thammasat University to Victory Monument, 538 from Techno Thanyaburi via Don Mueang Tollway to Ramathibodi Hospital and Priest Hospital, 554 from Rangsit via motorway to Suvarnabhumi Airport and 555 from Rangsit via Vibhavadi Rangsit and Army Reserve Force Students (Ror Dor) Center to Suvarnabhumi Airport.
Don Muang airfield was the second established in Thailand, after Sa Pathum, which is now Sa Pathum horse racing course. The first flights to Don Muang were made on March 8, 1914 and involved the transfer of aircraft of the Royal Thai Air Force. Three years earlier, Thailand had sent three army officers to France to train as pilots. On completion of their training in 1911, the pilots were authorized to purchase four Breguets and four Nieuports, which formed the basis of the Royal Thai Air Force.
Commercial service to Don Muang began in 1924. The first commercial flight was an arrival by KLM.
In 1933, the airfield was the scene of heavy fighting between royalists and government forces during the Boworadet Rebellion. The airfield was used by the occupying Japanese during World War II, and was bombed and strafed by Allied aircraft on several occasions.During the Vietnam War, Don Muang was a major command and logistics hub of the United States Air Force.
Before the opening of Suvarnabhumi, the airport used the IATA airport code BKK and the name was spelled Don Muang. After Suvarnabhumi opened for commercial flights, the spelling was changed and as Don Mueang it now uses the airport code DMK, though it still retains the ICAO airport code VTBD. The traditional spelling is still used by many airlines and by most Thais.
The night of September 27–28, 2006 was the official end of operations at Don Mueang airport. The last commercial flights were:
Domestic departure: Thai Airways TG 124 to Chiang Mai at 22:15 (coincidentally, when Thai moved domestic operations back to Suvarnabhumi again on 28 March 2009, their last departure was also a 22:15 flight to Chiang Mai) International arrival: Kuwait Airways from Jakarta at 01:30 Domestic arrival: TG 216 from Phuket at 23:00 International departure: Although scheduled for Kuwait Airways KU 414 to Kuwait at 02:50, Qantas flight QF302 to Sydney, originally scheduled for 18:00, was delayed for more than 9 hours before finally taking off at 03:12, about 10 minutes after the Kuwait flight. Qantas claimed that QF302 was an extra flight.
Although initially deserted by commercial carriers upon the opening of the Suvarnabhumi Airport, the higher costs of the new airport to operators as well as safety concerns over cracked runways at the new airport caused many to seek a return to Don Mueang. In particular, low-cost airlines have led demands for reopening of the airport. Airports of Thailand released a report at the end of 2006 which furthered this effort, proposing it as a way to avoid or delay second-stage expansion which had been planned for Suvarnbhumi.
On 30 January 2007, the Ministry of Transport recommended temporarily reopening Don Mueang while touch up work process on some taxiways at Suvarnabhumi proceeds. The
recommendation was subject to approval by the government’s executive Cabinet. On March 25, 2007, the airport officially reopened for some domestic flights.
Because of the 2011 Thailand floods that have affected Bangkok and the rest of Thailand, the airport was closed as flood waters flowed on to the runways and affected the lighting. Don Mueang International Airport reopened on 6 March 2012.
On 16 March 2012, government of Thailand ordered all low-cost, chartered and non-connecting flights to relocate to Don Mueang International Airport, ending the single-airport policy. Airports of Thailand was ordered to encourage low-cost carriers to shift to Don Mueang International Airport to help ease congestion at Suvarnabhumi Airport.
Suvarnabhumi airport was designed to handle 45 million passengers per year, but last year it processed 47.2 million and number is expected to reach 51 million in near future. Some 10 airlines are proposed to relocate to Don Mueang. Budget airline Nok Air is already serving flights from and to Don Mueang. Nok Air handles about 4 million passengers per year. Orient Thai Airlines and Thai AirAsia have also started operations at Don Mueang. Thai AirAsia carried 7.2 million passengers in 2011. The number was projected to grow to 8 million in 2012. Currently Terminal 1 is capable of handling 16.5 million passengers annually.
Don Mueang International Airport has 3 terminals. Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 used as international terminals before opening of Suvarnabhumi Airport, while Terminal 3 was used as a domestic terminal. All flights relocated to Terminal 1 on 1 August 2011. Currently Terminal 2 is not used, but it is scheduled to open by 2015.
Choak Dee Krab
Laew Phop Kan Mai Na Krab