I am very pleased to be in Thailand. It is one of the world’s greatest tourism destinations and a hub for business in Southeast Asia. And aviation is a key enabler of both. In fact, Thailand is a great aviation nation. In terms of traffic Suvarnabhumi airport ranks among the world’s busiest. Similarly, Thai Airways and Bangkok Airways are both longstanding IATA members and recognized worldwide for the service they provide.
Aviation has a real impact on Thailand. We estimate that currently aviation and related activities account for some 2 million Thai jobs and generate $29 billion in GDP. And by 2035 we see that to growing to 3.8 million jobs and $53 billion in GDP. That’s a potential for 83% growth. That won’t happen without some effort. And I will address some specific issues for Thailand shortly. But before I do that, I would like to give you some context at the global and regional level.
For all the value that airlines deliver, the industry has long struggled to turn a healthy—or sustainable—profit for their investors. With hard work and the confluence of some critical factors, we expect that airlines will deliver a $36 billion profit in 2016, for a 5.1% net margin. Even more significantly, airlines are starting to provide a normal return to their investors—without whose support we cannot meet the forecast demand for air travel. The average cost of capital is estimated at around 7.0% this year. And for the second year in a row—and only the second time in our history—airlines collectively are set to deliver a return in excess of that—8.6%.
- First, while fuel prices have fallen, the value of the US dollar (in which this region’s carriers purchase fuel) has appreciated by some 20% on average. And airlines also pay many other things in US dollars as well.
- Secondly, Asia-Pacific accounts for some 40% of global air cargo and the business has never been so tough. Globally, air cargo revenues peaked at $67 billion a few years ago. This year we anticipate revenues of $50 billion. I am still a long-term optimist on cargo, but there are severe challenges to improve the value proposition with improved technology and processes.
- And thirdly, this region is home to ever-intensifying competition.
- At the regional level, so-called “low cost” competition has a 54% market share—the highest in the world.
- In parallel, the super-connectors of the Gulf have increased competition on what was a traditional market for Southeast Asian carriers—routes from Europe to Asia and down to Australia.
- Suvarnabumi Airport
- To address the concerns expressed in the ICAO and FAA reports thoroughly and urgently; and,
- To mandate IOSA for all of Thailand’s airlines. This would not absolve the government of its need to do better, but it would send a strong signal that Thailand is serious about its commitment to world-class safety.
- The terminal capacity needs urgent expansion. The airport was designed to handle 45 million passengers. It exceeds that today and traffic is growing at 10% annually. Over-crowding is a serious issue that will become critical very quickly.
- There are safety concerns for the safety of the tarmac, taxiways and apron area because of soft spots. Aircraft get “stuck” in the soft surfaces that are the result of sub-standard materials.
What needs to be done?
- First, we need a permanent solution to the “soft spots” at Subarnabhumi. There seems to be a constant resurfacing with a temporary patchwork of asphalt reinforcements. Frankly, that is not good enough. These are temporary fixes at best. And the runway and gate downtime that results from constantly fixing (and re-fixing) them is unacceptable. Literally, nothing less than a “concrete” solution will do. Moreover the situation is a safety risk. The extraordinary power that aircraft need to use around soft spots and extra-towing expose ground personnel, ground equipment and the aircraft to safety risks.
- Second, we need to focus on capacity. The Phase Two terminal expansion is badly needed and should be fast tracked. For runway capacity, immediate capacity increases can be achieved through addressing the “soft spots” issue which will allow existing capacity to be used fully. But a third runway will be needed eventually. So it is important that work and preparations for a three runway system continue.
- Third, Thailand needs a short and long term masterplan for airports that all stakeholders can support. And that should be developed in close consultation with industry. By working together in an environment of transparency the best decisions for the future of Thailand’s critical airport infrastructure can be made. IATA is eager to play a role in the process.
- Since December last year there has been a THB 35 fee per segment for an advanced passenger processing system
- Airlines getting billed for overtime by immigration officers
- There proposals to charge passengers for the general funding the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand and even a specific charge to support the salaries of safety officers in the Department of Civil Aviation.