Suvarnabhumi not among the world’s best
Despite its advantage as the world’s newest airport, the gleaming Suvarnabhumi Airport was not counted among the best in the latest major global passenger poll.
However, rival regional airports including Singapore Changi and Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) continue to remain high on the list of top 10 Airports of the Year for 2007.
The survey conducted by the UK-based aviation research organisation Skytrax placed Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) first, followed by Seoul Incheon Airport and Changi tied for second place (see table).
KLIA rose to fifth place from sixth last year, according to 7.8 million detailed passenger surveys covering 170 airports conducted over an 11-month period.
The absence of Suvarnabhumi in the Skytrax list did not surprise the aviation industry in light of service-quality complaints that have plagued the 155-billion baht airport since it opened in September last year.
‘‘Suvarnabhumi Airport itself is not too bad to get it into the top-ten list, but the problem that is holding it back is the poor airport management that hassles passengers,’’ said one 30-year veteran of Thailand’s airline business.
Long immigration lines, poor signage and a shortage of toilets are among some the critical problems that have not been effectively dealt with and continue to prevent the airport management from meeting a goal to create high quality passenger service standards.
‘‘Fixing problems at Suvarnabhumi are painfully slow as senior AoT (Airports of Thailand Plc) officials are too occupied protecting themselves from scandals involving irregularities and alleged corruption cases rather than being able to devote themselves to solve day-to-day works like fixing problems at the airport,’’ he noted.
Meanwhile, the airport’s rivals are constantly challenging themselves to provide better services. Suvarnabhumi ‘‘needs a lot of catching up’’, he added.
Passengers participating in the Skytrax survey said they wanted easy use and short waiting times.
‘‘Travellers expect security processing to incur some delays,’’ said Skytrax chief executive Edward Plaisted. ‘‘But they are disappointed — and often annoyed — if the security facilities are inadequate.
‘‘Waiting in line for 30 minutes to find that only half of the available security scanners were open was a frequently stated complaint.’’
Poor services caused London Heathrow Airport to fall from 45th to 103rd in the rankings, while Frankfurt dropped to 94th from 48th.
The survey covers more than 40 categories of product and service quality, including terminal cleanliness, staff efficiency and courtesy, terminal signage and walking distances. Shopping, dining options and internet services are also taken into account. Security processing and immigration waiting times also featured prominently in the survey.
Hong Kong has taken the Best Airport title many times in the past. Its return to the top this year is a testimony to its quality services, efficient delivery and consistency, said Mr Plaisted.