Thailand’s airports: a case study in capacity issues

Tourism has been growing exponentially in Thailand, and is only expected to continue. As a result, congested infrastructure and shortages of gates and parking have become an all too common issue for Thailand’s major airports as they hit – and even exceed – current airport capacity. Solving these issues for now, and for continued growth, will require a mix of optimisation of current and investment in additional infrastructure.

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Growing pains

With the increased air travel to Thailand expected to grow even more now that ICAO has re-verified Thailand’s Aviation Safety Standard, airports must prepare for the inevitable changes in operations, services and other resources needed to increase capacity and optimise for growing demand. Even under the current demand, many Thai airports already face considerable capacity problems.

According to recent airport capacity reporting, many major airports in Thailand have already exceeded their capacity. Of course, Thailand is not alone. Many airports around the world are encountering capacity problems from the strong growth of recent years.

Dealing with airport capacity issues

The first signs of serious airport capacity issues are congestion in the airport infrastructure that result in delays and passenger frustrations, or worse, and insufficient gates and parking to handle the higher volume of flights. Solutions can vary widely due to a range of factors, but they all fall into two basic categories: optimising current use of infrastructure or investing in new infrastructure.

Which approach works best for an individual airport will depend as much on its current situation as on growth factors. The first place to look for ways to handle more flights will be in better procedures and planning that optimise use of gates, parking and other infrastructure. However, in some situations, it may be clear that further optimisation will not be enough to handle the demand, so possibilities for building new infrastructure will need to be reviewed.

Finding the right combination

It is difficult to know when and what to build: new gates, new terminals and/or new taxiways? First, it is important to understand whether airport capacity is currently sufficient before looking at how further optimisation might help and whether to expand the infrastructure for future demand.

One of the methods we use at To70, both to pinpoint current problems and to validate possible solutions, is fast-time simulation. With fast-time simulation, we can estimate the effects of various design and optimisation ideas by simulating airport movements and flow management. And we use our global resources of experience and knowledge in planning and efficiency to help airports find the best solutions and to decide which combination will be most effective for their current and future growth situation.

About To70. To70 is one of the world’s leading aviation consultancies, founded in the Netherlands with offices in Europe, Australia, Asia, and Latin America. To70 believes that society’s growing demand for transport and mobility can be met in a safe, efficient, environmentally friendly and economically viable manner. To achieve this, policy and business decisions have to be based on objective information. With our diverse team of specialists and generalists to70 provides pragmatic solutions and expert advice, based on high-quality data-driven analyses. For more information, please refer to

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