Officially opened on 15 September 2006, the Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) serves as the main hub for Bangkok Airways, Thai Smile Airways, and Thai Airways International. It is also a regional getaway used as a connecting point for different foreign carriers. This makes it the busiest airport in the country, eleventh busiest in Asia, and the 17th busiest in the world. Additionally, the airport also serves as a key cargo hub with over 90 airlines.
History: Proposal and Initial Challenges
In 1973, the need for a new airport was recognized. As a result, 8,000 acres of land were identified and purchased just 40 Kilometers east of Bangkok. The site was swampy and would have to be drained before it was named Suvarnabhumi, which translated means “realm of gold”. Following the overthrow of the government by student-led protests, the project was abandoned. In 1996, after a series of disruptions, a new company called New Bangkok International Airport was formed, but because of further political and economic frustrations, especially the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, the project was delayed until January 2002.
Early Construction, Tests and Official Opening
Due to several budget overruns, allegations of corruption, and construction flaws the airport would not open as scheduled in late 2005. Further, there was another delay after discovery the project was built over a graveyard. It took the invitation of 99 Buddhist monks who chanted at the site to appease the spirits and construction continued until completion. On 3rd and 29th July 2006, full tests of the airport were conducted. This involved airlines including: Nok Air, PBair, Thai Airways International, and One-Two-Go. The airlines were allowed to use the Suvarnabhumi Airport as a base with each doing 20 domestic flights.
On September 1, they conducted the first international test flights. On that day, two Thai Airways aircrafts, an Airbus A300-600 and a Boeing 747-400 departed simultaneously at 09:19 and flew to Hong Kong and Singapore. The aircrafts flew back at 15:50 and touched down simultaneously on 19L and 19R runways. The success of these tests was a demonstration that the facility was ready to handle traffic.
The Suvarnabhumi Airport was officially opened on September 28, 2006. In 2019, the airport was ranked position 46 on the list of top 100 airports. It has continued to experience growth in traffic and by mid-2015, the airport handled over 800 flights every day, which is more than its initial capacity of 600. This prompted ideas for expansion, which include raising passenger handling capacity up to 125 million per year.