FBO firm turns attention to Thailand

 - October 27, 2008, 12:07 PM

The ASA Group is preparing to establish a pair of FBOs in Thailand through a deal that would see it take over the management of the Thai government’s VIP terminals in Bangkok and Phuket. The first of the new bases could be operational by year-end and the other during next year’s first quarter, according to ASA Group CEO Simon Wagstaff.

The VIP terminals at Bangkok Don Muang Airport and Phuket International Airport are currently used only by a small number of government aircraft and some occasional corporate traffic. Under an agreement with the government’s Airports of Thailand authority, ASA hopes to draw more business aircraft to the facilities and share the increased revenues with the government. ASA intends to make the premises available to customers of other handling providers.

Customs and immigration clearance can be handled quickly at the two buildings, both of which have extensive adjoining ramp space for aircraft parking. According to Wagstaff, Don Muang Airport is a far more convenient gateway to the Thai capital than the new Bangkok International Airport and is just a 15-minute drive from the city center.

Don Muang now receives only domestic scheduled airline flights and is a lot less crowded than the new airport. The VIP terminal there is located on the northern end of the airport’s western ramp.

For almost a decade, ASA has been providing ground-handling support and security support for leading business aviation companies, including NetJets and Air Routing International, at up to 26 airports throughout southeast Asia.

Through a new subsidiary called Business Aviation Centers of Asia, it hopes to establish other new FBOs in the Cambodian cities of Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville. It also provides services in neighboring Laos, as well as at both Hong Kong and Macao.

“Business aviation is starting to be much more accepted in Asia,” Wagstaff told AIN. “Previously, the authorities have viewed it as a bit of a nuisance because they weren’t seeing the big picture.”

Wagstaff has been active as a security consultant and handling specialist in Asia for almost 20 years, having previously served in the British Army. He and his ASA colleagues speak several Asian languages between them and have extensive experience of dealing with local bureaucracies. “We like to make difficult places easy,” he said.

ASA is now in discussions with Thai officials about the precise commercial terms under which the government VIP terminals will be operated before the new FBOs open officially.