Protesters close Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport, flights diverted

Rampaging anti-government protesters forced the closure of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Thailand’s main international airport, Tuesday.

Photo:Wason Wanichakorn / Associated Press
Thousands of supporters of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) in a bid to pressure the current government to resign, breached police lines and stormed the airport, as a second day of demonstrations in Bangkok descended into violence with 11 injured in clashes

Airport director Saereerat Prasutanont claimed to have no option but to close down the airport, as the protesters broke the door on the fourth floor of the terminal and stormed into the departure lounge.

Tourism a major industry in Thailand has been badly disrupted. Along with thousands of tourists stranded, flights of most airlines were either diverted to alternate airports, or canceled.

Reuters reports, Bangkok’s shiny new airport resembled the aftermath of an all-night rock concert as thousands of confused people wandered aimlessly in search of food and help while others, wrapped in beach towels, slept where they could.

With the $4 billion terminal besieged by anti-government protesters, forcing the cancellation of all flights on Wednesday, foreign tourists had little option but to bed down on benches, behind check-in desks, even on luggage carousels.

PTI reports, four flights of Indian carriers to Bangkok were diverted today. Two Air India flights to Bangkok, one from Delhi (IC-853) and another from Mumbai (IC-693), were diverted and landed at Utapao airport, about 90 nautical miles off Bangkok. An Air India spokesperson said the passengers were then transferred by road to Bangkok.

Photo:Sakchai Lalit / Associated Press
Jet Airways flights from Mumbai and Delhi to Bangkok, 9W-064 and 9W-062, were, diverted back to Kolkata, from where they returned to their originating points of Delhi and Mumbai, an airline spokesperson said.

Outbound flights at the Bangkok airport were also affected since last night as hundreds of demonstrators — some masked and armed with metal rods — broke through police lines and spilled into the passenger terminal, reports said.

Using trucks and cars, anti-government demonstrators cut off highway access to the airport, the transportation hub for millions of tourists who visit the country each year, the reports added.

Jonathan Head of the BBC reports that the protesters, while well behaved, appear well planned and well organised. They have taken over the airport’s control tower as well.

Videos show the level of mayhem on the streets and the airport, which was inaugurated less than two years ago.

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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