Coup will not delay opening of new Thai airport next week

A military coup that seized power in Thailand this week will not affect Bangkok's new international airport, which is scheduled to begin full domestic and international operations Sept. 28, officials said Thursday.

"The ARC (Administrative Reform Council) will not change plans for the opening of the new airport," said Gen. Sondhi Boonyaratkalin, according to a statement Thursday by Airports of Thailand, the company that manages the country's airports.

The military, led by army commander Sondhi, took control of the Thai capital and government buildings Tuesday night, when former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was in New York for the U.N. General Assembly. Government offices, schools and banks were closed for one day Wednesday, but life was back to normal for most people the following day.

All domestic and international flights are scheduled to start Sept. 28 at the new Suvarnabhumi airport, which will take over most of the traffic from the aging and overcrowded Don Muang airport, officially called Bangkok International Airport.

Suvarnabhumi general manager Somchai Sawasdeepon confirmed that the new airport is ready to offer passenger and cargo service.

"I believe that the political situation will not affect our schedule," Somchai said. "All systems including passenger check-in, air traffic control and transportation have been prepared for full commercial operation."

Some domestic and international flights started a gradual shift last Friday to the flashy new hub, with a portion of Thai Airways' domestic flights and all flights by budget carrier Jetstar now using Suvarnabhumi. Bangkok Airways, the country's second largest airline, on Thursday transferred some domestic and international flights to China to the new airport, reports AP.

Located 30 kilometers (20 miles) east of central Bangkok, Suvarnabhumi has been plagued by corruption scandals, inordinate delays, fires and other problems. Touted as a key Asian air hub, it is expected to accommodate as many as 45 million passengers a year.

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