Recent changes at the national carrier THAI are helping to consolidate the emergence of Thailand as an airfreight hub after it changed the way it ran its cargo business.
Key to this process was the arrival of two block space freighters, both B777-200LRF. These are used for both regular and non-regular schedule flights in order to capture the surplus cargo in specific markets.
THAI Known to Carry Substantially More Cargo
It worked and THAI is known to be carrying substantially more cargo.
Total cargo revenue in the first half of last year was 14,573MTHB (US$485 million) around 62% higher than the same period last year, the carrier acknowledged in response to questions. Of this US$448 million comes from actual transportation services with handling services at Suvarnabhumi contributing US$37 million.
Current market talk is there is to be more of this with reports, again unconfirmed by THAI, it is looking to have a fleet of eight designated freighters serving the cargo market. The game plan are ported by local media although uncommented on by THAI despite several opportunities to do so would see it shift from being a passenger airline with cargo a second tier priority to a more balanced entity working both the cargo and passenger markets.
That is quite a signal both of what has happened and aspiration as to what THAI wants to be. Rather than be the cheaper, plainer alternative good for getting tourists into Thailand, it’s choosing to remodel as a carrier serving its customer market with elan and cherry-picking cargo possibilities.
The expectation is THAI will take delivery of a freighter with a 40-50 tonne payload such as an Airbus A300-600 or Boeing 767 to operate regionally, especially China and India, supporting the two Boeing 777-200s, as early as spring 2011.
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Issue of Land Transport
Matching this and another part of the evidence for the thesis of Suvarnabhumi as a freight hub is the issue of land transport. outbound logistics
With airports in key manufacturing hubs such as the Pearl River Delta crowded and costly, not to mention burdened with problems such as backlog, Thailand becomes cheaper and with a growing international road network and service providers moving mid-range products such a components and mid price consumer durables via road is viable.
Much of this is borne out by official statistics proving there are exports, growing amounts of them, moving through Thailand’s airports and Suvarnabhumi especially.
Till the end of September last year i.e. 2010, shipments of air cargo from Thailand’s six airports totaled 1,130, 164 tons already higher that 2009’s full year total of 1,102,375 tons, figures from Airports of Thailand (AOT) showed.
Of last year’s total the weighting is heavily towards outbound shipments 614,730 Vs 424,189 tons – as befits an emerging export economy – with an overwhelming majority, some 1 million plus tons at 1,078,917 tons going via Suvarnabhumi, AOT added.
Small Luxuries Struggling Consumers can Still Afford
Among the goods being moved are vegetables, fruits, flowers and foodstuffs and also livestock, garments and textiles as well as electronics, added AOT. The latter group are where the Thai economy is growing, the former the kind of small luxuries struggling consumers overseas can still afford.
Against this there are some problems. Several sources noted the vulnerability of the world economy to financial shocks as possible obstacles and of course in Thailand politics have already seen the airport occupied.
The other one, salient for Thailand and especially Suvarnabhumi is customs which either intentionally or not produce major bottlenecks. It’s a regional problem, one that will recur as China and the Southeast Asian nations move towards becoming an economic community.
Whilst few will criticize the hardware there are grumblings about how on occasion it is operated. Customs for example works 8.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday which isn’t conducive to late orders, rush jobs, delays elsewhere in the supply chain; in short the very way of doing business today. Any clearance outside of this requires overtime payments.