Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Suvarnabhumi Airport: Thailand's mega-structure

The main air gateway of Bangkok and Thailand is Suvarnabhumi Airport. With 96 airlines operating hundreds of flights to and from the terminal, the airport is one of the busiest airport hubs in the world. But do not be deceive by its name as it spelled.  It is pronounce as “su-wan-na-pum” meaning “Golden Land”.  

Gate areas of Thailand's mega-structure - Suvarnabhumi Airport.
The airport is located in Racha Thewa in Bang Phli district, Samut Prakan Province, about 25 kilometres east of downtown Bangkok. The name Suvarnabhumi was chosen by King Bhumibol Adulyadej and refers to the golden kingdom hypothesised to have been located somewhere in Southeast Asia. Suvarnabhumi is the sixth busiest airport in Asia, and the busiest in the country, having handled 47.9 million passengers in 2011, and is also a major air cargo hub, with a total of 96 airlines. On social networks, Suvarnabhumi is the world's second most popular place where Instagram photographs were taken in 2011. The airport inherited the airport code, BKK, from Don Mueang after the older airport ceased international commercial flights. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suvarnabhumi_Airport)

Welcome to Suvarnabhumi Airport!
Thai Airways hub.
A very warm welcome...
Building and Facility
The building was designed by Helmut Jahn of Murphy / Jahn Architects. It was constructed primarily by ITO JV. The airport has the world's tallest free-standing control tower (132.2 metres / 434 feet), and the world's fourth largest single-building airport terminal (563,000 square metres / 6,060,000 square feet). (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suvarnabhumi_Airport).

The building is mostly build of steels and huge panels of glasses. The glasses made it feel modern in design but the steel designs made it feel very “industrial” and only evokes a very “construction” feel to it because of the dull color of the grey steels especially the ceilings in the arrival area. Though, looking at the structures will make you amaze at this architectural wonder and mega-structure of the country. I also think that the glass design of the airport is one of those new airports that join in the modern trend of “all-glass designed airport” like Incheon International Airport, Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Beijing Capital International Airport Terminal 3 and Hong Kong International Airport.   

Information board - so many flight!
Check-in counter area at departure level.
Its main terminal is one long building with satellite buildings for gates shaped like a huge letter H.  The left area is mostly occupied by Thai Airways International (Suvarnabhumi’s home-based airline) while the middle and right H-arm of the terminal is dominated by foreign airlines.  The airport is complete with main amenities of international airports like day rooms, shower rooms, transit facility, lounges, transportation facility to downtown and numerous duty-free shops.

Arrival is a just a breeze and quick but maybe because our plane parked at the gate that is directly linked to the main terminal building. It is because the terminal has a letter H style satellite. What if the plane parked on the edge of the H satellite? It would be a nightmare walk to the Arrival Immigration and Baggage Carousel Claim since both are located in the main terminal. Yes, there’s a lot of walkalator to aid but it still a long walk to the main terminal. I’m not sure but I hope they have an in-terminal shuttle service because the arrival pathway from far located gates is not friendly for those traveling elderly and family with infants and small kids.

Looking for transportation options are the arrival terminal is very tourist friendly. It’s easy to locate where to take a taxi, bus or train to the city. Plus loads of very helpful tourist pamphlets available that will help you on exploring Bangkok and Thailand for the first time!

Sawasdee ka...
Thai relics at the arrival concourse area.
If the arrival area has a very impressive architectural design, the departure area won’t be a disappointment in impressive structural design as well. The departure area has more natural lighting effect from the outside because of the ceiling design. And the ambiance here has more light and space but the “construction and industrial feel” is still there since it is the dominant concept design of the terminal. The huge glass panel designs we all a breeze of air inside the structure of the departure terminal. The main departure area of check-in counters is literally huge that’s why be careful to get lost inside while looking for your airline counters.

Orchid Garden at the departure area.
Departure area of Suvarnabhumi Airport.
Buddha Urn Reliquary at the center of departure area.
Overlooking at the planes in its huge glass panel design.
At the transit and duty-free area.
Butterfly orchids at the airport's departure area - they are attention drawing among passengers.
Though the terminal has this “construction” ambiance, it didn’t fail to put markings and relics of Thai culture to have the terminal a touch of Thailand, like having a Reliquary urn of Buddha ornamented with many Thai orchids and lined statues of Yakshas (demon guards in Thai) at the departure area of the airport. In the transit area and meeting points of the gate satellites, passengers will find numerous historical and cultural Thai relics that made the terminal define to be an “airport in Thailand.” Be ready for another dose of shopping as Suvarnabhumi Airport has so many duty-free shops to choose from that you’ll be literally tired if you explored them one by one!

I like the idea of how the gate area was put to concept at Suvarnabhumi Airport. Each gate per plane is separated solely from the waiting area of the other gates with full contained divider – making it easy for airline employees to locate missing passengers. And each gate has restrooms so no need for passengers to go up or go to other areas where there’s a restroom if he or she needs too. A huge Samsung flat screen TV in front of the gate waiting area is there to keep the passengers entertained while waiting for departure.

PR731 to Manila at Gate D3.
Airy and spacious Gate D3  while waiting for departure.
Suvarnabhumi Airport is one of the biggest airport I have been in my whole travel life, that’s why it makes me think that Suvarnabhumi Airport is also Thailand’s megastructure. Imagine, three buildings of SM Mall of Asia together just composed the main building of the airport. Satellite airside gates are not yet included. How big that is!?

Final Call already?!
I tried to stroll the whole airport just to savor how mega structure it is. I had a good sense of wonderment at first but it only gave me a tiring last hour stay in Bangkok’s main air gateway. It is really huge but the structural design of the whole was astonishing and amazing! For me plus points for the huge modern glass panel designs, they are always delight to my eyes. Minus points for me the steel, lifeless, construction/industrial feel design part of the airport because I feel nothing when I see them like lifeless and it seems to be an unfinished building.

Numerous airlines flies to Suvarnabhumi Airport. This is the main terminal building with gates.
Just one arm of the H-style satellite gates of Suvarbhumi Airport.
 The idea of a huge airport is nice to accommodate more flights and passengers but I’m not pro for huge airport that is so huge enough that it is not passenger friendly anymore. And Suvarnabhumi Airport hit some of those like getting into long walks both at the arrival and departure area especially in the arrival area going to the immigration counter and baggage claim carousel coming far edge gates of the terminal. This factor is not friendly for visitors who are elderly, senior citizens, and passengers traveling with infants and small kids.  There are walkalators but then again longs walks and pathways are still ahead. I’m not sure if there’s a shuttle service here.

Suvarnabhumi Airport is a hub airport in South East Asia region that’s why many airlines fly to this airport that some are not flying to Manila. It’s location in Bangkok is a nice option to get various connecting flights to other cities around the world especially bound to Europe. That makes the airport an ideal transit hub for passengers with connecting flights not just for tourists and visitors but also for seman crew and overseas workers.

Bangkok in the air!
Overall, Suvarbhumi Airport really gave me an impression of what and how a mega-structure airport is. Ideal as well, because it the complete amenities of an airport especially its function as a hub airport for transiting passengers going to other destinations. There maybe downside aspects to its huge structure but its design were really impressive – I’m amazed and stunned to it.   

Suvarnabhumi Airport: Thailand's mega-structure is part of my Thailand's Amazing Smiles series where I share my wonderful trip to the land of amazing smiles last October 25-28, 2011. For a helpful trip to Bangkok visit Bangkok for Visitors website for more information. You might also like the other parts of the series:  


  1. Last blog entry from my Bangkok, Thailand trip series... at last. Merry Christmas everyone! Enjoy happy travel as usual!

  2. Merry Christmas Ian. That was truly an awesome series capped-off by a dazzling airport. I have been there tooand I even rode a train inside the airport :)

  3. Thanks for the greet and visit. Didn't about the train inside the airport. Anyway, Happy 2013 Oman!

  4. A job well done! This is a beautiful piece. Trust me, the sky is your limit,

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