Thailand Airport runway cracks, 134 flights rescheduled
Up to 134 flights have been rescheduled as Phuket International Airport in Thailand closed a cracked runway for urgent repairs, airport officials said on Monday.
The decision to close a runway during the early hours of Monday and Tuesday followed reports of cracks late Sunday, said the Aiport Director, Phet Chancharoen.
Chancharoen blamed heavy air traffic during the high tourism season for wear and tear on the runway, while the Tourism Authority of Thailand estimated that 300,000 tourists travelled from China on Feb. 16 for Lunar New Year alone.
A total of 75 flights were rescheduled on Monday, while at least 59 others will be cancelled due to repairs on Tuesday.
Most of the flights cancelled were for international routes.
Runway closure for maintenance is conducted four times a year at the airport and airlines and passengers are informed months in advance.
This week’s sudden closure, however, was unavoidable after cracks covering almost 100 square metres were discovered, Chancharoen said.
Phuket, an island in the Andaman Sea popular among international tourists, is located 840 kilometres south of Bangkok. Its airport manages up to 300 flights daily. There are small cracks in an are covering 9 square metres while there is another 84 square metres area between the runway and the taxiway that requires repair attention. PIA officials say that the cracks are a result of the increased traffic during the tourism high season and the recent surge during Chinese New Year. They say the runway needs to be closed urgently as a general precaution although they believe that the cracks never were seen as an immediate danger to aircraft operations at the airport.
The runway and taxiway closure will affect a total of 66 flights and the Airport has reported to the Department of Civil Aviation to change the slots and issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) about the repair operations to rearrange the traffic flow.
Phuket Land Transport Office has also been informed to provide additional buses for the surge of passengers either side of the closure window.
Drinks and resting areas have been prepared at the international terminal on the 3rd and 4th floor as well as at the X-terminal. The Airport also informed Thai Airways, BAGS Ground Service and Immigration Officers to do their best to accommodate the passenger needs if there are any delays.
Phuket Tourism Association is providing updates to the passengers.