Don Mueang International Airport

Don Mueang International Airport (IATA: DMK, ICAO: VTBD), known as Bangkok International Airport before 2006, is one of two international airports serving Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, the other one being Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK).

Don Mueang International Airport

Airport typePublic / Military
OwnerRoyal Thai Air Force
OperatorAirports of Thailand (AOT)
ServesBangkok Metropolitan Region
Location222 Vibhavadi Rangsit Road, Sanambin, Don Mueang, Bangkok, Thailand
Opened27 March 1914; 110 years ago (1914-03-27)
Operating base for
Elevation AMSL9 ft / 3 m
Coordinates13°54′45″N 100°36′24″E / 13.91250°N 100.60667°E / 13.91250; 100.60667
DMK/VTBD is located in Thailand
Location of airport in Thailand
Direction Length Surface
m ft
03L/21R 3,700 12,139 Asphalt concrete
03R/21L 3,500 11,483 Asphalt concrete
Statistics (2023)
Total passengers26,980,428 Increase67.26%%
International passengers9,971,010 Increase282.59%
Domestic passengers17,009,418Increase25.77%
Aircraft movements184,542 Increase52.92%
Freight (tonnes)14,210 Increase117.18%
Sources: Airports of Thailand[1]

The airport is considered to be one of the world's oldest international airports and one of Asia's oldest operating airport.[2] It was officially opened as a Royal Thai Air Force base on 27 March 1914, although it had been in use earlier. Commercial flights began in 1924, making it one of the world's oldest commercial airports. The airport consists of Terminal 1 for international flights and Terminal 2 for domestic flights which are connected by a unique glass exterior elevated walkway. The airport also featured an exterior walkway connected to the Amari hotel. The first commercial flight was an arrival by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.[3]

In September 2006, Don Mueang Airport was closed and replaced by the newly opened Suvarnabhumi Airport,[4] before reopening on 24 March 2007 after renovations. Since the opening of the new airport, it has become a regional commuter flight hub and the de facto low-cost airline hub. In 2015, it became the world's largest low cost carrier airport.[5] It still maintains its position as the second busiest airport in the country.

Don Mueang previously carried the IATA airport code BKK, which was reassigned to Suvarnabhumi, and was an important hub of Asia and the hub of Thai Airways International prior to its closure. At its peak, it served most[clarification needed] air traffic for the entire country, with 80 airlines operating 160,000 flights and handling over 38 million passengers and 700,000 tons of cargo in 2004. It was then the 14th busiest airport in the world and 2nd in Asia by passenger volume. Currently, Don Mueang is the main operating base for Nok Air, Thai AirAsia and Thai Lion Air.

History edit

"Don Mueang" airfield was the second established in Thailand, after Sa Pathum airfield, which is now Sa Pathum horse racing course, known as the Royal Bangkok Sports Club. The first flights to Don Mueang were made on 8 March 1914 and involved the transfer of aircraft of the Royal Thai Air Force. Three years earlier, Thailand had sent three army officers to France to train as pilots. On completion of their training in 1911, the pilots were authorized to purchase eight aircraft, four Breguets and four Nieuports, which formed the basis of the Royal Thai Air Force. Sa Pathum airfield was established in February 1911 with an arrival by Orville Wright, seven years after the invention of the first airplane by the Wright brothers on 17 December 1903.[6]

View of Don Mueang International Airport in 2020 from Don Mueang Tollway
Road into the passenger departure area for Terminal 2
Roads and bridges in front of the domestic terminal

In 1933, the airfield was the scene of heavy fighting between royalists and government forces during the Boworadet Rebellion. The airfield was used by the occupying Japanese during World War II, and was bombed and strafed by Allied aircraft on several occasions.[citation needed]

After the war had finished in September 1945, the airfield was occupied by the RAF during the brief British occupation of Thailand until March 1946 when 211 Squadron, which moved there in October 1945, was disbanded.[7]

In May 2005, Thai Airways International introduced nonstop service between Bangkok and New York City using Airbus A340-500s.[8]

Closure edit

The night of 27–28 September 2006 was the official end of operations at Don Mueang airport. The last commercial flights were:

  • International departure: Although scheduled for Kuwait Airways KU414 to Kuwait at 02:50,[9] Qantas flight QF302 to Sydney, originally scheduled for 18:00, was delayed for more than nine hours before finally taking off at 03:12, about ten minutes after the Kuwait flight. Qantas claimed that QF302 was an extra flight.[10]
  • International arrival: Kuwait Airways from Jakarta at 01:30[11]
  • Domestic departure: Thai Airways TG124 to Chiang Mai at 22:15 (coincidentally, when Thai moved domestic operations back to Don Mueang again on 28 March 2009, their last departure was also a 22:15 flight to Chiang Mai)
  • Domestic arrival: TG216 from Phuket at 23:00

Before the opening of Suvarnabhumi, the airport used the IATA airport code BKK and the name was spelled "Don Muang". After Suvarnabhumi opened for commercial flights, the spelling was changed and as "Don Mueang" it assigned the new IATA airport code DMK, though it still retains the ICAO airport code VTBD. The traditional spelling is still used by many airlines and by most Thais.

Reopening edit

Commercial carriers deserted Don Mueang at the opening of Suvarnabhumi Airport. But the higher operating costs of the new airport and safety concerns over cracked runways at the new airport caused many to seek a return to Don Mueang. Low-cost airlines led demands for a reopening of the airport. Airports of Thailand released a report at the end of 2006 which furthered this effort. The report proposed reopening DMK as a way to avoid or delay second-stage expansion which had been planned for Suvarnabhumi.[12]

On 30 January 2007, the Ministry of Transport recommended temporarily reopening Don Mueang while touch up work proceeded on some taxiways at Suvarnabhumi.[13] The recommendation was subject to approval by the Thai cabinet. On 25 March 2007, the airport officially reopened for some domestic flights.

Because of the 2011 Thailand floods that affected Bangkok and other parts of Thailand, the airport was closed as flood waters flowed onto the runways and affected the lighting.[14][15] Don Mueang reopened on 6 March 2012.

On 16 March 2012, the Government of Thailand under Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra ordered all low-cost, chartered, and non-connecting flights to relocate to Don Mueang. This ended the single-airport policy.[16] Airports of Thailand was ordered to encourage low-cost carriers to shift to Don Mueang to help ease congestion at Suvarnabhumi Airport.[17][18] Suvarnabhumi Airport was designed to handle 45 million passengers per year,[17] but it processed 48 million in 2011 and the number was expected to reach 53 million in 2012. Some ten airlines may relocate to Don Mueang. Budget airline Nok Air is already serving flights from and to Don Mueang. Nok Air handles about four million passengers per year. Orient Thai Airlines and Thai AirAsia have also started operations at Don Mueang. Thai AirAsia carried 7.2 million passengers in 2011. The number is projected to grow to eight million in 2012.[19]

Expansion edit

As of 2012, Terminal 1 is capable of handling 18.5 million passengers annually.[20] On 7 September 2013, Airports of Thailand announced its three billion baht renovation to reopen Terminal 2 as early as May 2014. Terminal 1's passengers in 2013 will likely reach 16 million against its capacity of 18.5 million. Completion of Terminal 2 in December 2015 increases Don Mueang's passenger capacity to 30 million a year.[21]

The third phase of Don Mueang's 36.8 billion baht expansion is scheduled to start in the second half of 2023 and will be completed in 2029.[22] It aims to increase the airport's passenger capacity to 50 million per year.[citation needed]

On 7 September 2022, an Airbus A380 made an emergency landing on runway 21R at Don Mueang.[23][24][25]

Terminals edit

Don Mueang International Airport has three terminals. Terminal 1 is used for international flights and Terminal 2 for domestic flights. The opening of Terminal 2 has raised the airport's capacity to 30 million passengers per year.[26]

Terminal 3, the old domestic terminal, has been abandoned since 2011. The new Terminal 3 will have a capacity of 20 million passengers yearly and is scheduled to be completed by 2029.[22] The 36.8 billion baht project will raise overall airport capacity from 30 to 50 million annually.[27]

Airlines and destinations edit

9 Air Fuzhou,[28] Guangzhou,[29] Guiyang,[30] Zhengzhou[28]
AirAsia Kuala Lumpur–International[31]
Air Macau Macau[32]
Bangkok Airways Koh Samui
Batik Air Denpasar,[33] Jakarta–Soekarno-Hatta
Batik Air Malaysia Kuala Lumpur–International
China Express Airlines Chongqing
China Southern Airlines Guangzhou,[34] Nanning,[35] Shenzhen,[36] Wuhan[37]
Firefly Penang (ends 30 April 2024)[38]
HK Express Hong Kong (begins 25 April 2024)[39]
Indonesia AirAsia Denpasar, Jakarta–Soekarno-Hatta, Medan
Juneyao Air Nanjing,[30] Shanghai–Pudong[40]
Korean Air Seoul–Incheon[41]
Myanmar Airways International Mandalay, Yangon[42]
Nok Air Buriram, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Chumphon, Hat Yai, Ho Chi Minh City, Hyderabad,[43] Mae Hong Son, Mae Sot, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Nan, Nanning, Phitsanulok, Phuket, Ranong, Sakon Nakhon, Surat Thani, Trang, Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani, Zhengzhou
Okay Airways Tianjin[44]
Philippines AirAsia Manila
Qingdao Airlines Dalian,[45] Yichang
Sky Angkor Airlines Phnom Penh[46]
Spring Airlines[47] Guangzhou, Jieyang,[48] Nanchang,[30] Shanghai–Pudong, Xiamen[49]
Thai AirAsia Ahmedabad,[50] Beijing–Daxing (begins 1 July 2024),[51] Bengaluru, Buriram, Can Tho (suspended), Changsha, Chennai,[52] Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Chongqing, Chumphon, Colombo–Bandaranaike,[53] Da Nang,[52] Denpasar,[52] Dhaka,[54] Fukuoka,[55] Guangzhou, Guwahati,[56] Hangzhou, Hanoi,[52] Hat Yai, Ho Chi Minh City,[52] Hong Kong, Huangshan, Jaipur, Jakarta–Soekarno-Hatta, Jieyang,[57] Johor Bahru, Kaohsiung,[58] Khon Kaen, Kochi, Kolkata, Krabi, Kuala Lumpur–International, Kunming, Loei, Luang Prabang, Lucknow,[59] Macau, Malé, Manila, Naha,[60] Nakhon Phanom, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Nan, Nanjing, Narathiwat, Nha Trang, Penang,[52] Phitsanulok, Phnom Penh, Phuket, Quanzhou, Ranong, Roi Et, Sakon Nakhon, Shanghai–Pudong,[61] Shenzhen, Siem Reap,[62] Singapore, Surat Thani, Taipei–Taoyuan,[63] Tokyo–Narita (begins 16 June 2024),[64] Trang, Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani, Vientiane, Visakhapatnam,[65] Wuhan, Xi'an, Yangon
Seasonal: Gaya
Thai Lion Air Bengaluru,[66] Changsha,[67] Changzhou,[68] Chengdu–Tianfu,[69] Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Chongqing,[70] Da Nang, Hangzhou,[67] Hat Yai, Hefei,[67] Jakarta–Soekarno-Hatta, Jinan,[67] Kathmandu,[71]Khon Kaen, Kochi,[72] Krabi, Macau,[73] Mumbai, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Nanchang,[70] Nanjing,[67] Penang,[74] Phitsanulok, Phuket, Quanzhou,[70] Sanya, Shanghai–Pudong,[67] Shenzhen,[67] Singapore,[75] Surat Thani, Taipei–Taoyuan,[76] Tianjin,[67] Tokyo–Narita,[77] Trang, Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani, Wuhan,[67] Xi'an[67]
Charter: Hualien,[78] Tainan,[79] Taiyuan
Thai Summer Airways Taipei–Taoyuan[80]
T'way Air Cheongju,[81] Seoul–Incheon[82]
Vietnam Airlines Da Nang[83]

Statistics edit

In 2019, the airport reached its full capacity of 52 flights per hour or about 700–800 flights per day. By the end of 2019, it is expected to top its maximum passenger handling capacity of 40 million. Airport manager AoT forecasts 41 million passengers in 2020 and 45 million by 2023. The airport was designed to serve a maximum of 30 million passengers annually. Building additional runways is not possible. AoT is encouraging airlines to use wide-body aircraft at Don Mueang to increase passenger loads from 100–200 passengers to about 300 per aircraft.[27]

Passenger figures edit

A line-up of Thai Airways International aircraft at Don Muang before their relocation to Suvarnabhumi Airport in 2005
A Thai Lion Air Boeing 737-900ER bound for Hat Yai in 2015
International Terminal (Terminal 1) of Don Mueang International Airport
Departure hall of Terminal 2 in Don Mueang International Airport
Check-in area of Terminal 2 in 2016
Arrival Corridor in Domestic Arrival Terminal 2

Total passenger traffic through Don Mueang jumped 40.7 percent to 30.3 million in 2015, with international numbers rising 53.1 percent to 9.17 million and domestic passengers increasing 35.9 percent to 21.1 million. Aircraft movements rose by 29.8 percent to 224,074, including 158,804 domestic (up 26.2 percent) and 65,270 international (up 39.3 percent).[84]

Calendar year Passengers Change from the previous Movements Cargo
2008 5,043,235
2009 2,466,997  051.1%
2010 2,999,867  021.6%
2011 3,424,915  014.2% 51,301
2012 5,983,141  074.7% 65,120 7,329
2013 16,479,227  0472.70% 154,827 25,657
2014 21,546,568  030.75% 172,681 29,086
2015 30,304,183  029.76% 224,074 45,488
2016[85] 35,203,757  016.17% 244,296 67,884
2017 38,299,757  08.8% 256,760 67,777
2018 40,758,148  06.4% 272,361 55,250
2019 41,313,439  01.36% 272,363 43,586
2020 15,765,854  061.8% 133,307 15,226
2021 5,059,048  067.91% 120,683 20,685
2022 16,130,626  0218.85% 133,307 6,543
2023 26,980,428  067.26% 184,542 14,210
Source: Airports of Thailand
Bangkok Don Mueang Airport Passenger Totals. See Wikidata query.
Year Domestic International Total Change%
2008 5,043,235 5,043,235   0.46
2009 2,466,997 2,466,997   51.1%
2010 2,999,867 2,999,867   21.6%
2011 3,424,915 3,424,915   14.2%
2012 5,983,141   74.7%
2013 11,190,783 5,288,444 16,479,227   472.70%
2014 15,556,627 5,989,941 21,546,568   30.75%
2015 21,133,502 9,170,681 30,304,183   29.76%
2016[85] 23,323,457 11,880,300 35,203,757   16.17%
2017 23,942,371 14,357,386 38,299,757   8.8%
2018 24,779,256 15,978,892 40,758,148   6.4%
2019 23,456,123 17,857,316 41,331,439   1.36%
2020 13,039,448 2,726,406 15,765,854   61.8%
2021 5,045,193 13,855 5,059,048   67.91%
2022 13,524,424 2,606,202 16,130,626   218.85%
2023 17,009,418 9,971,010 26,980,428   67.26%

Busiest domestic routes 2019 edit

Busiest domestic routes to and from Don Mueang Airport 2019[86]
Rank Airport Passengers Handled 2019 %Change
1 Chiang Mai 3,564,487   0.34%
2 Phuket 3,016,280   9.76%
3 Hat Yai 2,574,739   9.27%
4 Udon Thani 1,656,430   6.60%
5 Chiang Rai 1,549,745   4.20%

Busiest international routes edit

Busiest international routes to and from Don Mueang Airport 2019[86]
Rank Airport Passengers 2019 % Change
1 Kuala Lumpur–International 1,339,182  5.47%
2 Tokyo–Narita 1,279,186  34.05%
3 Singapore 1,071,336  3.86%
4 Yangon 790,496  2.35%
5 Osaka–Kansai 662,318  46.83%
6 Seoul–Incheon 643,606  13.88%
7 Jakarta–Soekarno-Hatta 585,981  13.63%
8 Taipei–Taoyuan 551,848  25.05%
9 Ho Chi Minh City 510,873  8.67%
10 Nanjing 440,051  6.00%

Other facilities edit

  • The following companies had head offices on the airport property, before ceasing operations: Siam Air[87] and R Airlines[88]
  • Don Mueang International Airport is a joint-use facility, shared with the Royal Thai Air Force's (RTAF) Don Muang Royal Thai Air Force Base, and is the home of the RTAF 1st Air Division, which consists primarily of non-combat aircraft.
  • A RTAF golf course is located between the two runways. The course has no separation from the runway, and golfers are held back by a red light whenever planes land.

Accidents and incidents edit

Flight edit

  • 25 December 1976 – EgyptAir Flight 864, a Boeing 707-300 bound for Bangkok from Cairo, crashed into an industrial area near the airport during a landing attempt. All 53 aboard were killed.
  • 27 April 1980 – Thai Airways Flight 231, a BAe 748 which was en route from Khon Kaen to Bangkok, lost altitude during a thunderstorm and crashed about 13 km from Bangkok International Airport. All four crew members and 40 of the 49 passengers were killed.
  • 1 April 1981 – Indonesian Special Forces (Kopassus) raided hijacked Garuda Indonesia Flight 206 which was en route from Palembang to Polonia Airport (hijacked in Indonesian airspace). All 48 passengers safe, seven fatalities (one commando, one co-pilot, five terrorists). Imran bin Muhammad Zein, hijacker leader, captured.
  • 9 September 1988 – Vietnam Airlines Flight 831 crashed while on approach to Don Mueang International Airport. 76 of the 90 passengers and crew on board were killed.
  • 26 May 1991 – Lauda Air Flight 004, a Boeing 767-300ER (registered OE-LAV, named Mozart) which was headed to Vienna, suffered an in-flight deployment of the thrust reverser on the No. 1 engine after taking off from Don Mueang. All 223 people on board were killed.
  • 21 January 1992 – Douglas VC-47D L2-41/15/210 of the Royal Thai Air Force was damaged beyond repair in a landing accident.[89]
  • 23 September 1999 – Qantas Flight 1, in what was then the most serious incident in the airline's famously safe jet aircraft history, a Boeing 747-400 overshot the runway causing significant damage but no casualties.
  • 3 March 2001 – Thai Airways International Flight 114, a Boeing 737-400 (registered HS-TDC, named Narathiwat), bound for Chiang Mai from Bangkok, was destroyed by an explosion and fire that occurred about 35 minutes before Thaksin Shinawatra, later to become Prime Minister of Thailand, and about 150 other passengers were to board. Five members of the cabin crew were aboard, and one was killed. Witnesses said they heard an explosion before flames erupted aboard the aircraft. Subsequently, NTSB investigators reported that the central fuel tank had exploded followed by the right tank 18 minutes later. The cause for the explosion was unclear, though some speculate it was an assassination attempt based on chemicals found during the subsequent investigation.

Ground edit

  • 29 June 2023 – At 8.30 am a 57-year-old female had her bag trapped at the end of moving walkway in the south corridor of the departures level in the domestic terminal. CCTV footage showed the bag hitting the woman's left leg which was followed by in the floor surface sinking, pulling her left leg into the roller mechanism.[90] The woman was sent to Bhumibol Adulyadej Hospital where she later received an above-knee amputation due to her wounds.[91] Later investigation revealed 3 out of 4 screws fixing the moving walkway base had become loose and disappeared, resulting in inadequate weight bearing and sinking of the walkway surface. This was not the first incident as there had initially been reports of people having their sandals trapped and shredded in the airport's walkways. The investigation team concluded a negligence in the maintenance of the walkways and dismissed 68 airport officials including the airport director.[92]

Ground transportation edit

Bus station at Don Mueang Airport in 2022
Access passage from Don Mueang railway station on the SRT Dark Red Line to Don Mueang International Airport

Transfer to/from Suvarnabhumi Airport edit

Don Mueang International Airport is approximately 1–1.5 hours from Suvarnabhumi Airport by rail or bus. There are also direct buses between the airports operated by Airport Shuttle Bus.

Road edit

The airport has two main access routes. Among these the most convenient route is via the Don Mueang Tollway. Another main airport entrance is Vibhavadi Rangsit Road.

Four bus routes service the airport, route A1 runs between the airport and Bangkok Bus Terminal (Chatuchak), route A2 runs between the airport and Victory Monument, route A3 runs between the airport and Lumphini Park, and route A4 runs between the airport and Sanam Luang.[93]

Rail edit

Don Mueang International Airport is served by the SRT Dark Red Line and the State Railway of Thailand intercity services at Don Mueang railway station that connects to central Bangkok at Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal.

AOT plans to build a three-kilometre monorail to link the airport with the BTS Green Line. Approval of the three billion baht project is expected by the end of 2020.[27]

Notes edit

References edit

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