New Airport Report
I flew out of the new airport on Sunday evening and, while the building certainly looks magnificent on the outside, there are plenty of problems inside.
Much has already been said about the lack of signs, and that is obvious. The few signs there are mostly do not face people walking along but face them sideways. So you have to actually be beside it to see it. Such an easy thing to remedy, and much talked about, but nothing done.
The biggest problem I noticed is that no-one knows where to meet arriving passengers. There are three doors, A, B and C, but no way of knowing from which door passengers will emerge. The huge indicator boards give no clue, and the distance to cover between them is hundreds of metres.
I tried to ask a girl at the information counter how to know from which door they would emerge, but her English was so poor she had no idea what I was asking. How is this possible?
The food area was stiflingly hot, but maybe that was a temporary problem caused by crowds of sightseers.
Through immigration, the floor is dangerously slippery (warning signs are up), and although the Thai business class lounge is enormous and looks wonderful, premium passengers were searching for seats. The reason, apparently, is that two further lounges are planned but have not been built yet.
In what the authorities proudly claim is the world’s longest passenger terminal, there are no moving walkways to the departure gates.
Others have complained about the lack of toilets, and I would echo that.
One positive. The rule that taxis could not pick up from the terminal has, Thai-style, been completely ignored, even to the extent that low-tech photocopied signs have been stuck to pillars directing passengers to them.
Once you requested information regarding the new airport, here is my report.
Arrival. I arrived on Friday, 29th of September around 2200. The time from landing to the finger docks was very reasonable, until the doors opened was just a few minutes, everything perfect and up to Hong Kong standards.
Depending on where you dock, the time to the customs desk can be very long. It took me 10 minutes to walk. Passport procedure went very fast and no problem at all, excellent service and I did not see that they take your picture as at the old airport.
Afterwards I had to wait 30 minutes until the bags were delivered. Considering that some visitors had to wait 4 hours the day before I was very lucky. Negative points: no, but absolutely no trolleys, I had to get one from an official office, I just went in, saw one and took it.
The arrival hall after customs is much too narrow and is a misconstruction. No space, too many people, you can not move. If you want a public taxi you have to take the elevator down, again waiting for an elevator to arrive. On the ground floor there was a taxi queue without end, it took me 45 minutes to get my transportation. When I saw the driver I knew I was in trouble. He asked 50 baht extra over the meter or he would unload the baggage again. 50 baht is not too bad but his taxi was unable to go faster than 80 km/h. In addition he did not know how to get into town and he took the regular overland road. It took me 1 hour and 15 minutes. Next time I will not pay 50 baht extra and will ask the guy if he really knows his way. By the way, all the trolleys missing in the arrival hall were by the thousands at the taxi stand. However, due to the difficult situation the airport offered free mineral water to everybody. The bottles were piled up in huge mountains before the taxi stand!
Once everything is organised I think the arrival will be up to the best airport standards.
Departure 30.9.06 I took a taxi from the Shangri-La. All highway to the airport, wonderful service, 40 minutes and I paid baht 220 plus tip. For customers staying at the Sukhumvit hotels the time to the airport will be 30 minutes and will cost max baht 150. Before the taxis asked a flat rate of baht 300 to the old airport. Maybe there are laws that taxis have to use the meter to the airport? When you arrive at the airport the silhouette is impressive and beautiful. The colour scheme is perfect. No traffic jam when you arrive at the terminal, trolleys available. Business class check in at Thai Airways is the best in the world. A total new experience, you have to see and experience it. A lot of space, luxury and excellent service. Special customs clearance, airport tax still at baht 500.
Check in for Economy class is very crowded. The noise level is too high. I find it even more stressful than at the old airport. Tax refund is still the same old small office as in the old airport.
The business class lounge a disaster. No space, not enough seats, full of people looking for seats and running to the gates. The food is as lousy as in the old airport.
Once out of the business lounge you are in a huge shopping area. The choice of merchandise is excellent but everything is overdone and there is too much of everything. I cannot imagine that business will be good. I still cannot see who has money to spend at the airport after a vacation in Thailand. Prices for liquor are normal, prices for books and food are overpriced by at least 30%. There's an interestingly choice of restaurants, seafood restaurant, sushi bar, etc. The disadvantage is that the restaurants are in the middle of the shopping street! The lighting is excellent and you feel at ease if there were not be the thousands of travellers who are looking for the gates. Maybe 50% of the persons were military in civilian clothes and staff from the shops etc. If you walk in the shopping mall, which is like a shopping street, there is no indication of gates. Nothing, either you have studied the layout of the airport or you have to ask somebody where the gates are. Again, long distances to the gates. All the flights to Europe which leave after 11 o'clock leave from the same wing. There was an immense queue before the security check. The waiting time is at least 30 minutes. The staff was so overworked and the queue so long that there was practically no security. All you had to do was to put the baggage on the belt. They were totally understaffed to check the persons when the alarm went off. Everybody just passed.
At the gates the atmosphere becomes very cold, the lighting is not appealing, all the seats are in steel and you'll catch pneumonia if you sit down. The temperature in this hall was certainly not above 16 degrees.
Due to the fact that the airport was open only for 2 days, the service was acceptable. I think that after a few days everything will go smoothly. For me the airport is too big and the shopping area simply oversized. The time and the distances from the check in to the gates are too long. The quality of the finish of the airport is not good. The toilets are done poorly, the tiles are sometimes already cracked, the floors are dirty to the point that they can not be cleaned anymore.
This airport will have a difficult time to compete with Hong Kong and Singapore. Thailand is still not in the same league of quality and finish of the final product. I think they missed a great opportunity to match or overdo their competitors. If I had to choose a transit airport, definitely Hong Kong, Kensai and Singapore are much superior.
On the other hand, Thais have the ability to meet international standards, and Paragon Department store proves it.
One thing I forgot about the airport, after customs you come to this monument with Thai figures. Almost all the passengers take a picture of it and of course create a traffic jam.
These reports just came in last night but rather that put them in the queue behind other submissions, I bumped them to the front. I know many people want to know about the new airport and I considered it best to run these straight away. If you have been through the new airport, let us know how it is and we can include your experiences here – and hopefully others can benefit from it.