BANGKOK • The International Air Transport Association (Iata) has warned that Bangkok's main Suvarnabhumi Airport is a safety risk, with "serious" overcrowding soon to become a critical issue.
The aviation body added that the airport needs urgent expansion, the Nation daily reported yesterday.
Thailand is under pressure to improve its aviation standards after the United States Federal Aviation Administration downgraded its safety ratings in December last year.
"There are also safety concerns about the airport's tarmac, taxiways and apron area because of soft spots," said Iata director-general and chief executive Tony Tyler.
"Aircraft get stuck in the soft surface due to sub-standard materials," he told the newspaper in an interview in Bangkok, after returning from the Singapore Airshow. "Aircraft should be able to taxi freely and park freely without sinking in. This is a basic requirement."
Thailand's aviation sector accounts for an estimated two million jobs, according to Iata, and acts as the backbone of the kingdom's tourism industry - one of the few bright spots in an otherwise flagging economy.
However, the aviation industry is under scrutiny after the United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) downgraded the country last June, giving it a red flag for missing a deadline to tackle safety concerns.
This week, the Thai civil aviation authority said a review by the ICAO was likely to be delayed until early next year because it needed more time to improve the qualification of Thai auditors.
Mr Tyler said the airport, which handles 52 million passengers each year, had a significant regional and global role but needed to urgently expand its terminal capacity, the Nation report said.
"It was designed to handle 45 million passengers annually, but it exceeds that today, and traffic is still growing at an annual 10 per cent rate. Overcrowding is a serious issue that will become critical quickly," Mr Tyler said.
Iata represents almost 260 airlines, accounting for 83 per cent of global air traffic.
Thai airport operator Airports of Thailand said it was aware of the problems flagged by Iata and had readied several measures to expand capacity and improve runways by using concrete. The plans are awaiting government approval.
"We have prepared short- to medium-term, as well as long-term plans to solve the problems," said Mr Sirote Duangratana, general manager of Suvarnabhumi Airport.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE