Suvarnabhumi Airport
Nikada/iStock Photo

Can Suvarnabhumi Airport reclaim its world’s top 20 status?

PM Sretta Thavisin is laying out a five-year plan for Thailand’s national airport.

Top Koaysomboon
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Top Koaysomboon

Many of us have had a bad experience at Suvarnabhumi Airport: lengthy check-in lines and immigration queues, overcrowded departure halls, long walks from the check-in counters to gates, confusing signage, and an apparent focus on retail spaces over traveler facilities.

So people weren’t too surprised when PM Sretta Thavisin announced on Friday that he is committed to “upgrading” Suvarnabhumi so it can regain its status as one of the world’s top 20 airports within five years.

The move came after business traveler media, Business Financing, ranked Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang as the 7th and 10th worst airports in Asia, respectively. This only adds fuel to when airline and airport review website Skytrax rated Thailand’s main airport as the 68th best flight hub in the world in 2023, lagging far behind Singapore's Changi, the world’s best airport.

The PM and his team even dropped in unannounced at Suvarnabhumi a couple times and witnessed for themselves the airport’s many problems, including (1) congested halls, (2) long wait times at checkpoints, immigration, and baggage claim, and (3) a messy taxi queue. He later promised that these issues will be sorted out within six months and declared that overall wait times for departing passengers shouldn’t be longer than 30 minutes.

Suvarnabhumi SAT-1 Terminal
Photograph: Thianchai ThiansiripiphatSuvarnabhumi SAT-1 Terminal

First opened in 2016, the 563,000-square-meter Suvarnabhumi Airport remains one of the largest airports in Asia. It welcomed the new Satellite Terminal last year, allowing the international airport to now accommodate up to 60 million visitors annually. Suvarnabhumi plans to open a third runway in October, boosting its capacity from 68 flights per hour to 94 flights per hour.

But what makes a great airport? According to Skytrax, travelers are surveyed on their experiences across various airport services, including check-ins, arrivals, transfers, shopping, security, immigration, and departure gate processes. In short, ratings are based on queuing times at any lines, the variety and pricing of facilities, shops and dining options, cleanliness of spaces and restrooms, and the friendliness and efficiency of the staff.

How has your experience been at Suvarnabhumi, and do you believe the PM can successfully fix these issues?

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