Thai airports to help fight pandemic

Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport is central to plan as the country prepares for an increase in cargo

Thailand’s airports are readying themselves to help with the rollout of vaccines to counter the pandemic, the World Cargo Summit heard on January 27.

According to Khata Vinin, the Deputy VP for the Air Cargo Management Department of Airports of Thailand, who manage Thailand’s international airports, they are preparing a ‘Land and Go’ strategy.

The rollout highlights a big change in the airport business both globally and especially in Thailand, with cargo now a much larger part of their business given the slump in passenger numbers.

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The basic idea is that vaccines can be moved out of Thailand’s gateway airport, Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi, as quickly as possible. “This is a huge challenge,” said Vinin.

AOT’s response has been twofold.

Firstly it has had four or five meetings with a variety of stakeholders, including the FDA, to set up protocols for as much clearance as possible to be done pre-touchdown, said Vinin. The hope is for a three-hour transit time from the airport to medical hubs in nearby Bangkok. 

“We prepare everything. We will see in the beginning of February,” Vinin said.

Additionally, AOT is buffing up its infrastructure with a specific cargo terminal being prepared along with chargers and adaptors for cool dolleys being acquired.

Longer term, AOT is preparing itself for a new business environment which will probably see more emphasis in cargo. One part of this is talks with the airlines to block space for cargo, added Vinin.

It is also looking to work with other airports, which he did not name, so they can align better to each other “like code sharing” so the planes can carry more bellyhold cargo. “This has to be taken seriously,” he said.

AOT is also using the slump in passenger numbers to press on with its expansion plans, including a satellite terminal believing the market will return by 2024. “If we don’t expand at this moment when?” asked Vinin. “This is the opportune time for fixing things.”