Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thailand's airports see huge drop in passenger traffic

Local traffic at 4-year low

BOONSONG KOSITCHOTETHANA

Passenger traffic through Thailand's six main airports dropped for the third consecutive month in September, bringing passenger numbers to levels last seen four years ago.

Last month's steep decline, 20.2% lower than in the same period last year, was due to the the double impact of the slowdown in global travel demand and the deteriorating political standoff in Thailand.

Anti-government demonstrations in Bangkok, which spilled over to Phuket where protesters forced the airport to close, curbed passenger flows as double-digit declines were recorded across the board in international and domestic numbers.

Passengers through the airports operated by Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT) including Suvarnabhumi, totalled 3.48 million last month, compared to 4.36 million in September 2007.

International passenger numbers declined 19.4% to 2.22 million and domestic ones 21.5% to 1.25 million, according to figures from AoT.

Total flight movements were down 15.8% year-on-year to 26,832. The drop reflected budget carriers' sharp cutback in flights in September by nearly 40% to 5,406, and a 6.3% reduction by conventional airlines to 21,426.

Cumulative January-September passenger numbers were 2.75% higher over the same period last year at 42.97 million, though flight movements fell 1.7% to 290,273.

The passenger traffic outlook for the fourth quarter is mixed, with much depending on how the worldwide financial crisis spreads and to what extent.

Aviation experts see, at best, stagnation when compared to the same period last year, with high-season tourism demand preventing the numbers from slipping too much.

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