Three airports currently run by the Department of Airports (DoA) will soon come under the control of Airports of Thailand (AoT) in order to help drive tourism growth, Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob said on Tuesday.
The ministry has resolved to shift the management of Udon Thani, Krabi and Buri Ram airports to the AoT which can help better expand their capacities to turn them into regional air transport hubs that are well-positioned to handle more tourists.
The move follows a ministry consultation with the two airport authorities and the Treasury Department which owns the land on which the three airports are located.
The transfer had been in the pipeline for some time.
Udon Thani and Buri Ram airports will be handed over to the AoT on Jan 1 and Krabi airport will be transferred at a later date, according to Mr Saksayam.
He said he has learned that the land leases for the three airports may be brought on par with the rate at which the Treasury Department charges on land where six other airports currently overseen by the AoT are located.
The Treasury Department will change its contractual partner for the three airports from the DoA to the AoT. The leases will also be extended to 30 years instead of being renewable every three years at present.
Mr Saksayam said the AoT was studying how it might compensate the DoA for losing the right to manage the three airports which have generated the department a steady income.
One way could be to pay a lump sum to the department based on a projection of the revenue the AoT could earn from the three airports over the duration of the 30-year leases.
Alternatively, the AoT could set aside part of its revenue from the three airports for the DoA.
A source at the ministry said the DoA is opposed to the airport transfers, reasoning that the profits generated by two of them were spent propping up other airports under the DoA which were not performing so well.
With the loss of the three airports, the DoA's revenue is expected to plummet and will likely result in the department having to seek government help in the form of taxpayers' money to shore up its operations.
Of the 29 airports the DoA operates, only six are profitable. They are Udon Thani, Krabi, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Ubon Ratchathani, Khon Kaen and Surat Thani.