Leading flight planning and handling groups have abandoned Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport after Airports of Thailand (AOT) awarded exclusive handling rights for business aircraft operations to local charter operator MJets. They say they have been compelled to establish alternative handling operations at the Thai capital’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport over concerns about the new handling operation at Don Mueang.
Royal Airport Services, which lost out in the bid, has filed a lawsuit in Thailand’s administrative court arguing that AOT did not adhere to the rules of the bidding process. According to a handling expert who attended the bid meeting, and who spoke to AIN on condition of anonymity, MJets had been excluded from the process for failing to meet the technical requirements, only to be mysteriously reinstated later and awarded the rights without any further explanation by AOT officials.
Privately, handlers and flight planners have expressed concern about the alleged failure of MJets to provide them with any of the following key documents: an official handling license for Don Mueang, insurance coverage for third-party liability and negligence, a statement confirming compliance with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and Transportation Security Administration requirements, and authorization to act as sole handler. MJets declined a request from AIN to see proof of these approvals but said that it has met all the requirements of AOT. The handling agent interviewed by AIN, who has been operating in Thailand for many years, suggested that western companies will be reluctant to have their aircraft handled by MJets if it cannot meet these conditions.
Universal Weather & Aviation has confirmed that it has moved its handling operation to Suvarnabhumi and expressed “surprise” at the awarding of the handling rights to MJets. “We do have some concerns over transparency [in the awarding of the handling rights to MJets], but we have to move on because this is beyond our control,” Universal manager Chris Maupin told AIN.
The ASA Group, which provides support to clients of flight planner Air Routing International, also rapidly relocated to Suvarnabhumi. “We are making the move to deliver the same high standards of service, compliance and safety to our customers as we have over the past decade,” said CEO Simon Wagstaff. ASA is now operating in new facilities made available by its long-standing partner Thai Airways International.
Wagstaff acknowledged that some aircraft operators will still prefer to fly in and out of Don Mueang. He said ASA will do its best to ensure that these clients’ handling needs are met by the new MJets operation, adding that ASA is prepared to cooperate with the company provided certain operating criteria are met.
Universal acknowledged that there will be some “inconvenience at first” but said that it is working to establish a separate VIP customs and immigration process.
MJets says it has invested “millions of U.S. dollars” to upgrade the private aviation terminal at Don Mueang. The Thai company said that the 2,000-sq-ft building includes showers, lounges for passengers and crew, a business center, as well as
a flight planning room. It began acting as sole provider for handling of aircraft weighing less than 45 metric tons (99,206 pounds) on March 15.