Suvarnabhumi Airport Bangkok Thailand
Suvarnabhumi Airport from Sanskrit, meaning Golden Land, also known as (New) Bangkok International Airport, is one of two international airports serving Bangkok, Thailand. The other one is Don Mueang International Airport.
Suvarnabhumi was officially opened for limited domestic flight service on 15 September 2006, and opened for most domestic and all international commercial flights on 28 September 2006.
The airport is currently the main hub for Thai Airways International, Bangkok Airways and Orient Thai Airlines. It also serves as regional gateway and connecting point for various foreign carriers.
The airport is located in Racha Thewa in Bang Phli district, Samut Prakan Province, about
25 kilometres east of downtown Bangkok. The name Suvarnabhumi was chosen by King Bhumibol Adulyadej and refers to the golden kingdom hypothesised to have been located somewhere in Southeast Asia.
The building was designed by Helmut Jahn of Murphy / Jahn Architects. It was constructed primarily by ITO JV. The airport has the world’s tallest free-standing control tower (132.2 metres / 434 feet), and the world’s fourth largest single-building airport terminal (563,000 square metres / 6,060,000 square feet).
Suvarnabhumi is the sixth busiest airport in Asia, and the busiest in the country, having handled 47.9 million passengers in 2011, and is also a major air cargo hub, with a total of 96 airlines. On social networks, Suvarnabhumi is the world’s most popular place where Instagram photographs were taken in 2012.
The airport inherited the airport code, BKK, from Don Mueang after the older airport ceased international commercial flights. A modern motorway no.7 connects the airport, Bangkok, and the heavily industrial Eastern Seaboard of Thailand, where most of the manufacturing for export takes place.
Planning of a second international airport for Bangkok started in the early 1960s. The process was slow from the start: as early as 1968, critics were already charging that the project was “five to seven years” behind the main schedule.
The 8,400 acres (3,400 ha) plot of land occupied by the airport was purchased in 1973, but the student-led protests on 14 October that year led the overthrow of the military government of Prime Minister Thanom Kittikachorn and the project was shelved. After a series of ups and downs, the “New Bangkok International Airport” company (NBIA) was formed in 1996. Due to political and economic instabilities, notably the Asian financial
crisis of 1997, the civil construction began six years later in January 2002 by the government of Thaksin Shinawatra. The airport is located in a once low-lying marsh, formerly known as Nong Ngu Hao, which took five years (1997–2001) to clear make a land reclamation. In 2005, the construction supervision and management was transferred to the Airports of Thailand PLC, while the NBIA company was dissolved.
Fifty percent of the airport’s construction cost was covered by Airports of Thailand, while the another 50% was from a friendly agreement of AOT and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC). Airport-related procurement followed JBIC’s stringent guidelines for transparency and openness. Despite populism regarding the airport as being built for passengers, Thai and foreign exporting companies in the area for a long time wanted a round-the-clock airport built along with a modern motorway between factories, Bangkok, and the port of Laem Chabang.
Early construction, airport tests, and official opening
The airport was due to open in late 2005, but a series of budget overruns, construction flaws, and allegations of corruption plagued the project.
A further delay was caused by the discovery that the airport had been built over an old graveyard, and superstitious construction workers claimed to have seen ghosts there. On 23 September 2005, the Thai airports authority held a ceremony where 99 Buddhist monks chanted to appease the spirits.
Symbolic first test flights involving two Thai Airways aircraft were held on 29 September 2005, a previously announced deadline for opening.
Many difficulties were recorded in the first few days of the airport’s operation. On the first day alone, sluggish luggage claims were common – the very first passenger arrival by Aerosvit took an hour for the luggage to start coming out and some flights did not have their luggage coming out even after four hours. Also flights were delayed (Thai Airways claimed that 17 of 19 flights were delayed that day), and there were also failures with the check-in system. Subsequent problems included the failure of the cargo computer system, and the departure boards displaying the wrong information, resulting in confused passengers (especially as unlike Don Muang, there were no “final calls” issued).
Months into its opening, issues such as congestion, construction quality, signage, provision of facilities, and soil subsidence continued to plague the project, prompting calls
to reopen Don Mueang to allow for repairs to be done. Expert opinions varied widely regarding the extent of Suvarnabhumi’s problems as well as their root cause; most airlines stated that damage to the airport was minimal. Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont decided on 16 February 2007 to reopen Don Mueang for domestic flights on a voluntary basis, with 71 weekly flights moved back initially, with no international flights allowed.
The Engineering Institute of Thailand conducted investigations at the airport in late 2006 after signs of distress were spotted at several locations in Suvarnabhumi’s taxiways and taxilanes. Rutting was found in five of the six taxilanes and one of the six taxiways. Plastic deformation of the asphalt wearing course was observed near the takeoff position of the runway. The investigators noted, however, that plastic deformation at this location was a common phenomenon and only routine maintenance was required to repair the distress. Aside from this surface distortion, both runways were in good structural condition.
Further investigations found that taxilane and taxiway rutting was caused by separation of the asphalt binder from the aggregate surface due to prolonged water infiltration into the asphalt concrete base course, a phenomenon known as “stripping.” The 23-centimetre (9.1 in) thick base course is the top-most layer of the tarmac. Core samples indicated that the concrete base course material contained the correct job mix and aggregate gradation. Below the base course are the binder course, the wearing course, and the cement-treated base.
Detailed investigations found that water seepage was evident along the rims of the expansion joints in the cement-tested base, indicating that a large quantity of water was still trapped in the sand blanket (the bottom-most layer of the tarmac). It was found that
water trapped in the sand blanket was fully confined with no connection to the pavement areas of the airport. A later investigation by the AoT identified several potential reasons for the trapped water in the sand blanket. The AoT’s findings were disputed by several experts.
The Engineering Institute of Thailand sent a formal warning to the AoT in November 2006 about the urgent need to drain water from beneath the tarmac, and the need for immediate action. “The AOT did nothing about the problem,” Suebsak Promboon of the EIT later noted. “The situation might not have become this bad if the water had been drained then.”
In January 2007, ruts were discovered in the runways at Suvarnabhumi. The east runway was scheduled to close for repairs. Expert opinions have varied widely as to the root cause of the ruts.]Airport authorities and airline representatives maintained that the airport was still safe and resisted suggestions that the airport should be completely closed and all flights moved back to Don Muang.
On 27 January 2007, however, the Department of Civil Aviation declined to renew the airport’s safety certificate, which expired the previous day. The ICAO requires that international airports hold aerodrome safety certificates, but Suvarnabhumi will continue to operate because the ICAO requirement has yet to be adopted as part of Thai law.
The airport has two parallel runways (60 m. wide, 4,260 m. and 3,810 m. long) and two parallel taxiways to accommodate simultaneous departures and arrivals. It has a total of 120 parking bays (51 with contact gates and 69 remote gates) and 8 parking bays (5 contact gates and 3 remote gates) of these are capable of accommodating the Airbus A380 aircraft. With a capacity of handling 76 flight operations per hour, both international and domestic flights will share the airport terminal but will be assigned to different parts of the concourse. In the initial phase of construction, it will be capable of handling 45 million passengers and 3 million tonnes of cargo per year. Between the airport hotel and the terminal building are the two 5-storey car park buildings with a combined capacity of 5,400 cars.
Plans to re-open Don Mueang for domestic flights
In January 2007, Thai Airways announced a plan to move some of its domestic operations back to Don Muang International Airport due to overcrowding. Three days later, the Ministry of Transport recommended temporarily reopening Don Muang while repair work on the runways at Suvarnabhumi proceeds. At that time, Thai Airways said it would shift most of its domestic flights back, keeping flights with high international passenger connections such as Chiang Mai and Phuket at Suvarnabhumi. On 28 March 2009, Thai Airways discontinued all domestic flights from Don Muang. Bangkok Airways and One-Two-GO had similar plans, but Bangkok Airways remained at Suvarnabhumi. Thai AirAsia said it
would not move unless it could shift both its international and domestic operations, and they remain at Suvarnabhumi for this reason. Nok Air and PBair were undecided, but Nok Air later relocated all their flights to Don Muang, where they operate today. As of January 2010, only Nok Air and One-Two-Go operate domestic flights from Don Muang Airport. PBair have ceased operations altogether. One-Two-Go was integrated into Orient Thai Airlines in July 2010, but continues to operate from Don Muang Airport. As of 1 October 2012 Air Asia has moved all of its Bangkok operations to Don Muang International Airport (DMK) from Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK).
Repair and upgrades
Airports of Thailand found that the cost of fixing 60 identified problems at the airport would be less than 1% of the total airline cost and the problems could be fixed in up to four to five years. Dr. Narupol Chaiyut, a member of a committee overseeing service problems at the new airport, estimated that 70% of the problems would be fixed within 2007. 20 of the 60 problems were successfully fixed by February 2007.
Suvarnabhumi Airport’s main terminal roof is designed with structural elements and bays placed in a cantilevered, wavelike form to appear to “float” over the concourse beneath. This overall design principal was to express the former essence of the site, from which the water had to be drained before construction could begin. The eight composite 2,710-ton trusses supporting the canopy of the main terminal are essentially diagrams of the bending movements acting on them, with the greatest depth at mid-span and over the supports. These mega-trusses are composed of three smaller trusses joined via pin connections: the middle truss acting similarly to a drop-in beam flanked by two cantilevered trusses. The outer and inner trusses address compression inversely to one another. Whereas the top of the middle truss is formed by two cords to account for the compression of the roof structure, the bottom of the cantilevered trusses is formed by two chords, sense the concentration of compression reverses when the outer-trusses are cantilevered.
The integration of structural form into overall aesthetics is a phenomenon personally described by Helmut Jahn as “archi-neering”. These integrations include works on the advanced long span lightweight steel trusses coupled with exposed pre-cast concrete
structures, low e-coated glass facade system, three layer translucent membrane, integrated cooling, using water as a low-energy carrier, the thermal mass of concrete, and a displacement ventilation system with minimal air-changes.
The result of Helmut Jahn’s vision is a structure with performance materials serve in their total composition and in use more than in their conventional roles. This maximizes daylight use in comfort with substantial energy life-cycle cost savings. The installed cooling system reduced up to 50% compared to a conventional system. A translucent membrane with three layers was developed to mediate between the interior and exterior climate, dealing with noise and temperature transmission, while still allowing natural flow of daylight into building.
Suvarnabhumi Airport’s main terminal’s characteristic green building envelope is 100 ft (30 Meters) high and runs throughout the perimeter for a total of 3610 ft (1,100 meters). Utilizing a minimalist structural form of point fix facade called the “cable truss system”, it was believed by many as the largest spider fixing glass facade at the time of its completion. The structure relied on previously establishing tension in a highly compacted dia.14mm stainless steel cable supported by compression spreader strut elements between two vertical trusses to provide a horizontal truss system. Dead loads are supported by dia.16mm high tensile stainless rod that were engineered right inside the main body of the point fix clamp making the DL rods to appear hidden between the glass silicon.
Suvarnabhumi Airport has taken numerous measures to protect it from flooding. The airport was built on a watershed. The airport area is surrounded by a 3-metre high, 23.5 km long earth dyke. Within the area protected by the dyke there are numerous canals, including one running along the inside of the dyke, which drain into 6 reservoirs. The reservoirs hold up to 4 million cubic metres of water. At the southern boundary of the airport there are two water pumping stations, each has 4 pumps that pump 12 cubic metres (12,000 litres) of water per second (or 1 million cubic metres per day). The pumped water is discharged into 2 canals, Khlong Lat Krabang and Khlong Bang Chalong, which flow south to the Gulf of Thailand.
The Second phase of Suvarnabhumi airport
Costing an estimated ฿155 billion (US$ 5 billion), the airport has two parallel runways (60 m wide, 4,000 m and 3,700 m long) and two parallel taxiways to accommodate simultaneous departures and arrivals. It has a total of 120 parking bays (51 with contact gates and 69 remote gates), with five of these capable of accommodating the Airbus A380. The main passenger terminal building, with a capacity of handling 76 flight operations per hour, co-locates the international and domestic terminals, though assigning them to different parts of the concourse. In the initial phase of construction, it will be capable of handling 45 million passengers and 3 million tonnes of cargo per year. Above the underground rail link station and in front of the passenger terminal building is a 600-room hotel operated by Accor Group under the Novotel brand. Between the airport hotel and the terminal building are the two 5-storey car parks with a combined capacity of 5,000 cars.
Long-term plans include five runways flanking two main terminals, two satellite buildings and a domestic terminal will have a combined capacity capable of handling more than 150 million passengers and 6.4 million tonnes of cargo a year were settled clearly on the drawing board. The second phase of airport expansion which involving the construction of a satellite building south of the main terminal and a domestic terminal is expected to begin construction early 2012.
The airport’s passenger terminal is the world’s largest passenger terminal ever constructed in one phase at 563,000 square metres (6,060,000 sq ft), and is also currently the fourth biggest passenger terminal building in the world, after the Hong Kong International Airport (570,000 square metres / 6,100,000 square feet), Beijing Capital International Airport (990,000 square metres / 10,700,000 square feet), with the largest passenger terminal being at Dubai International Airport (Terminal 3 is over 1,500,000 square metres / 16,000,000 square feet). The airport air-traffic control tower is the tallest in world history at 135 metres (443 ft).
Suvarnabhumi Airport has 72 air bridges and 69 non-air bridges. Additionally, flights are also able to park at remote locations on the ramp, from which airport buses transport passengers to and from the terminal. Suvarnabhumi Airport has 18 air bridges and 6 non-air bridges for Airbus 380–800
On 15 December 2011 Airports of Thailand (AOT) announced to speed up the second phase expansion of Suvarnabhumi Airport to 2016, one year ahead of its scheduled completion in 2017. An investment of 62.5 billion baht ($1.95 billion USD/€1.49 billion EURO) is being planned for the second phase, according to Transport Minister Sukampol Suwannathat. The plan is to strengthen Suvarnabhumi Airport’s position as a regional aviation hub. Phase Two would raise the airport’s capacity to 65 million passengers a year and should also be undertaken in parallel with the construction of the new domestic terminal. Earlier transport Minister ACM Sukampol Suwannathat gave the green light to Airports of Thailand (AoT)’s plan to carry out the expansion of Suvarnabhumi airport with
the construction of a new domestic terminal. The new domestic terminal will be capable of handling 20 million passengers a year. Estimated cost is 9.2 billion Baht. The two expansion projects are part of the overall airport enlargement that would see Suvarnabhumi raise its annual passenger handling capacity to 120 million passengers, 85 million international and 35 million domestic passengers by 2024 at an estimated cost of 163 billion baht. The expansion includes the construction of one additional runway from two at the present, subsequent enlargement of domestic and international terminals and improvements to parking bays, car parks and other airport infrastructure.
An expansion plan to increase the passenger capacity of the airport to 60 million by building an additional satellite passenger terminal linked to the current main terminal via an underground automated people mover (APM) system is set to be voted on by the AOT board during a 17 May 2012 meeting. If the plan gains endorsement by the board it will be able to proceed to appointing a project management consultant (PMC) which will bring it
one step closer to commencing construction on the much needed expansion. If all goes to plan the expansion is set to be completed in 2018. The expansion also includes a plan to expand the airport parking garage as well as the expansion of the eastern end of the main passenger terminal by 135 meters along with the construction of a new airline office building. The expansion does not include plans to construct a third runway, however. According the Bangkok Post, the new satellite terminal will have a total of 28 gates, with 8 of them being able to service the Airbus A380 superjumbo jet.
Taxis stand is located outside the arrival hall on the same level
Airport Rail Link
The 30-billion baht Suvarnabhumi Airport Link was opened on 23 August 2010,] after multiple delays. The Airport Rail Link (ARL) is operated by SRTET, a subsidiary company of the State Railway of Thailand. The standard gauge line is 28.6 kilometers long and is elevated for most its length, running mostly above existing regional railway lines and parallel to the No. 7 Motorway and Si Rat Expressway. There is a short at-grade/underground segment as the line approaches the passenger terminal building of Suvarnabhumi Airport. The ARL has two interchange stations, namely Phaya Thai (changing for BTS Green Line services) and Makkasan (linking Phetchaburi station of the MRT Blue Line). Two train services are operated: the non-stop Express Line trains run between Suvarnabhumi and Makkasan (at a maximum speed of 160 km/hour); the commuter City Line trains that run between Suvarnabhumi and Phaya Thai, calling at all
stations. At the end of 2010, Makkasan station will also serve as the City Airport Terminal with parking and baggage check-in facilities offered to passengers using the Express Line. In the future, the ARL will complement the SRT Red Line commuter service, which comprises two meter gauge, dual-track lines. The ARL may also be extended from Phaya Thai to Don Mueang via Bang Sue, given that the old Don Mueang International Airport has now been reopened for civil aviation under a dual-airport policy.
The Airport Rail Link operates daily from 6 am to 12 midnight. A single-trip journey costs between 15 and 45 Baht or 150 Baht on the City Line and Express Line service, respectively. Journeys on an Express Line train (non-stop to Makksan) and the City Line train (six stops to Phaya Thai) takes 15 and 27 minutes, respectively. Suvarnabhumi station is located right under the main terminal building (B1 Level, two floors below the Arrival Hall). As the connection walkway linking Makkasan and Phetchaburi MRT stations is currently under construction, passengers changing to other mass transit lines are advised to take a City Line train to Phaya Thai and change to the BTS Skytrain from there.
Baggage check-in facilities for passengers travelling on flights operated by Thai Airways International and Bangkok Airways are offered at Makkasan station (the city air terminal) from 8 am to 9 pm, daily. Passengers must check in their baggage at least 3 hours prior to the flight departure, or up to 12 hours in advance, and are required to purchase an Express Line ticket to Suvarnabhumi Airport.
Meanwhile, SRT provides a suburban commuter train service between Hua Takhe (the nearest station to Suvarnabhumi on the East line) and the northern suburban city of Rangsit via downtown Bangkok and the old Don Mueang Airport. The train also connects with BTS and MRT at Phaya Thai and Phetchaburi stations respectively. Passengers pay a flat fare of Bt30. A shuttle bus service linking the airport with Hua Takhe railway station is provided by BMTA for Bt15. The train service is currently not as popular as the bus service because it requires a shuttle bus connection. The service will be stopped when the Airport Express Link is completed.
The airport express bus stopped running as of June 2011.
Twelve air-conditioned city bus routes are operated by Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) serve the airport’s dedicated bus terminal. City buses offer a cheaper alternative of Bt35 flat fare, compared with the airport express bus. Passengers must take a shuttle bus to the public transportation center’s bus terminal, however, before they can board the regular city buses. The twelve routes available are as follows:
The airport has five main access routes. Among these the most convenient route is via the Bangkok Chon Buri Motorway (Highway No. 7). Another main airport entrance is in Samut Prakan province via the expressway from Bang Na to Bang Pakong.
The airport has provided five convenient entrance routes. The main route is via the motorway in the north of Bangkok, directly connecting Bangkok’s downtown and Chon Buri province, the industrial and harbor city in eastern Thailand. However, another main airport entrance is located in Samut Prakan province, connecting an elevated highway in the south of Bangkok which lies from Bang Na to Bang Pakong.
Flat-fare limousines are available at the Arrivals Level (second floor). Limousine services are provided by AOT and by a number of other licensed Limousine companies.
Bus (Bor Khor Sor) is available as, Bus Line 389 go to Pattaya Bus Line 9905 go to Jomtien Beach BUS Line 9906 – 1 go to U-Tapao International Airport get off at U-Tapao Station Bus Line 9907 go to Chanthaburi BUS Line 9909 go to Si Racha
Metered taxis are available on the ground level of the airport, one level down from the arrivals hall.
Since 1 February 2007 the 700 Baht departure tax is included in the price of flight tickets. Before that date, departing passengers had to pay the tax to officials or vending machines before they entered the immigration queues. The departure tax at Don Muang International Airport was 500 Baht per person.
Choak Dee Krab
Laew Phop Kan Mai Na Krab