Long queues have returned to Bangkok’s unusually quiet Suvarnabhumi Airport this week. With barely any flights and passenger, Suvarnabhumi International Airport has been transformed its check-in area into a COVID-19 vaccination center as part of efforts to speed up its Covid-19 vaccine rollout.
42 check in counters on the departures level of the airport have been taken over by healthcare workers who are vaccinating frontline workers, airport staff, immigration officers, and airline crew. As of now, the new facility is doing about 1,000 inoculations per day.
The airport vaccination hub, in its first phase, aims at vaccinating the 30,000 people who work in and around the airport. They hope to have this done by the end of May, however, there is the capability to do even more. It is one part in Thailand’s plan to vaccinate 300,000 people a day. The goal is for the entire country to be fully vaccinated by the end of the year.
In 2019, Bangkok’s gleaming Suvarnabhumi International Airport was among the busiest airports in the world. In the last year of normal travel, 2019, the airport handled 65,424,564 passengers. Usually, about 40 million tourists head to Thailand each year with a majority of them going through Suvarnabhumi International.
Tourism accounts for about 13% of Thailand’s GDP but in March only 6,737 people entered Thailand. The Thai Government is set on helping the tourism sector to be up and running again. The most important part is to get the bulk of Thailand’s population vaccinated against COVID-19. However, the Thai Government is being slow to start mass vaccinations and risks missing its vaccination goals.
In 2019, almost 100 airlines flew into Suvarnabhumi International from all corners of the globe. With the current travel restrictions, the airport is serviced only by a handful of local and regional carriers. They offer a mix of mostly domestic and short to medium-haul international flights.
According to data published by Airports of Thailand, operator of Suvarnabhumi Airport, across March 2021, there were only 498 international arrivals and 487 international departures at the airport, or around 32 movements a day. There were 1772 domestic departures and 1767 domestic arrivals, or an average of 114 daily aircraft movements, in the same month.