Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport resumes full operations

Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport resumed full operations Friday after being shut down for a week by protestors as part of their campaign to topple the government, dpa reported.

More than 100 international and domestic flights were expected to use the airport on Friday, said the Bangkok Post online news service.

Acting Transport Minister Santi Promphat together with officials from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) inspected Suvarnabhumi's readiness Friday morning.

Thai Airways International (THAI) and Cathay Pacific Airways resumed their regular flights from the airport on Friday and a host of international carriers including Emirates, Qantas, Jet Airways and Northwest will resume flights on Saturday. Lufthansa plans to resume its flights to the Bangkok hub on Sunday.

The closure of the airport has caused THAI an estimated 20 billion baht (588 million dollars) loss due to more than 1,000 flight cancellations.

In October, the national airline had already reported a 20-per-cent decline in traffic due to the country's escalating political showdown between demonstrators and the government.

Followers of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) evacuated the airport on Wednesday, after raiding it on November 25 forcing the facility to immediately cancel all outbound flights out of security concerns. They also occupied Don Mueang, the capital's old airport, on November 28, effectively cutting off the capital from all commercial air traffic.

The PAD agreed to lift their siege on the airports on Tuesday shortly after Thailand's constitution court dissolved the ruling People Power Party for committing election fraud in the December 23, 2007 polls, banning its executives from politics and automatically sacking former prime minister Somchai Wongsawat and half his cabinet.

The PAD claimed the court decision as a political victory, since their goal was to force the resignation of Somchai, the brother-in-law of fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the movement's political nemesis.

Their evacuation of the airport brought the country back from the brink of a possible escalation in violence and bloodshed if pro-government "red shirt" demonstrators had been unleashed on the PAD, as some observers had feared.

The airport closures have caused Thailand incalculable economic damage.

Industry sources claimed to have lost up to 90 million dollars a day in undelivered cargo and Thailand's tourist arrivals may be cut in half next year due to long-term repercussions on the sector.

Suvarnabhumi airport cost Thailand 4 billion dollars to build. In 2007, its first full year of operations, it handled about 41 million passengers and 1.2 million tons of cargo, making it one of the busiest airports in Asia.

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