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Sun 1 Oct 2006 04:00 AM

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Thailand airport opens ahead of schedule

Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok opened for business last month, two weeks ahead of the official schedule, with Thai Airways International becoming the fi rst commercial flight to land at the international aviation facility.

“Thais are good at beating deadlines,” said Somchai Sawasdeepon, director of Suvarnabhumi Airport. “The duty-free shops here will rival anywhere in the region, even better than Dubai.”

Suvarnabhumi has suffered repeated delays due to construction problems, including three holes in the airport’s roof, caused during heavy rainfall in September.

However, with the airport now operational, the Thailand government hopes to compete against local rivals Malaysia and Singapore to become the region’s leading aviation hub.

The initial capacity at Suvarnabhumi Airport is 45 million passengers and 3 million tonnes of cargo every year. It also claims to have the world’s largest terminal building (563,000m²), tallest control tower, and various recreational facilities, including a spa and bowling alley.

In addition, a rail system connecting central Bangkok to the new international airport is 40% complete and should be operational by November 2007. The Airport Link to Suvarnabhumi Airport will include a direct express train that will take 15 minutes from the Makkasan train station, which connects to the city’s mass transit subway system.

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