The facilities of U-tapao International Airport are already stretched to the limit, but they will have to hold up until anti-Thai government protestors end their stake-out at Suvarnabhumi International Airport.
According to executives of Singapore Airlines (SIA), one of several carriers forced to divert flights to this former air force base used by the US during the Vietnam War: “The facilities at U-Tapao are struggling to cope with very high demand, and this is causing delays to flights.” Until December 5, SIA will continue its twice-daily flights between U-Tapao and Singapore with the option of weekend flights depending on the conditions in Bangkok.
Passengers are advised to call Singapore Airlines on and provide contact details, so it can try to accommodate them in the next few days. The numbers are 66 2 353 6000 (Thailand) and 65 62 23 8888 (Singapore).
Other carriers have been doing their bit to relieve the misery of their stranded nationals.
Philippine Airlines (PAL) continued on its second day of service to Chiangmai today. Said Dina May Flores, PAL’s country manager, Hongkong and Macau: “We had a total of 220 confirmed passengers on today’s (December 2) flight, leaving Chiangmai at 2100 local time and arriving in Manila at 0130 on December 3.”
Its first flight left the northern Thai city on December 1, carrying a total of 433 passengers on a Boeing B747. The Philippine embassy in Bangkok handled the transfer arrangements.
Philippine low-cost airline Cebu Pacific mounted a rescue flight to U-Tapao on December 1, using an Airbus A320 aircraft to ferry 158 repatriated Filipinos back to home shores.
Malaysia Airlines (MAS) scheduled flights to U-tapao and Phuket today with morning flights departing Kuala Lumpur at 9.10am and 11.05am for U-tapao on a 144-seater B737. This afternoon, flights using a 294-seater Airbus left the capital at 3.15pm and 5.15pm. MAS also announced twice-daily flights to Phuket from KL.
The airline’s Bangkok office can be reached by calling 662 2630 572 or 662 1343 184 and the Phuket office at 667 621 6675 and 667 623 4467.
For tomorrow, December 3, China Airlines (CAL) is readjusting flights CL-065 and CL-066, Taipei-Bangkok-Amsterdam to Taipei-Chiangmai-Amsterdam, utilising a B747-400 aircraft with a capacity of 397 seats. Along with other airlines, CAL has set up check-in counters at the BITEC (Bangkok International Trade and Exhibition Centre). Passengers with confirmed bookings have been asked to proceed to Entrance 1 for the flights from 8am to 10.30am (Bangkok time). Then, a shuttle bus will transport travellers to U-tapao for boarding, a journey of three hours. BITEC is located at 88 Bangna0Trad (km 1), Bangna, Bangkok 10260, while those using the BTS should alight at On Nut Station and take a taxi to BITEC.
According to CAL, passengers are advised to visit its website, www.china-airlines.com or call the Taipei Customer Service Hotline at 886 2 2715 1212 before leaving for the airport in case of any last-minute changes.