Bangkok’s Don Muang International Airport is Thailand’s longest-standing airport and Asia’s oldest Airport, once a glorious gateway for tourists to enter and exit the country and formerly the 2nd busiest airport in Asia, its former glory seems to have been long forgotten.
|Skytrax rating||3 Stars|
|Number of Terminals||3 (Terminal 1- International, Terminal 2- Domestic, Terminal 3- Disused/abandoned)|
|The main hub for:||Nok Air, Thai AirAsia, Thai Lion Air|
Early Years 1914 -1946
Don Muang Airport was first established as a military airfield for the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF), being the second airfield to be established in Thailand. The airport’s first flight was on the 8th of March 1914, with an RTAF transport plane, and was officially opened on the 27th of March 1914 by the RTAF. The airport mainly served Breguets and Nieuports which were French, turboprop aircraft. Ten years later in 1924, Don Muang received its first commercial flight, a KLM Royal Dutch airlines arrival. Fast forward to 1933, the airfield became a protest ground in the Boworadet Rebellion which was an uprising against a prince in the royal family. In 1945, Don Muang was occupied by Japanese forces which caused it to be bombarded heavily by the Allied forces. Following the Axis powers’ loss in WWII, the British Air Force stationed their 211th squadron at Don Muang from September 1945 to March 1946.
Glowing & Golden 1947-1990
In 1947, Don Muang’s name was changed to Bangkok Airport to cater to international tourists. In the 1920s, the Thai government realized how profitable and beneficial tourism could be for the country so after the 2nd World war, the Thai government set about creating tourism campaigns to draw in more western tourists. This would mean that Don Muang or Bangkok Airport as it was then called would face higher demands so the airport was expanded and underwent a slow but steady renovation. Thai Airways Company (TAC) which was the precursor to Thai Airways International opened new routes in 1947, these included flights to Japan, The Philippines, and India. Lufthansa, Pan American World Airways, and other airlines like B.O.A.C saw the opportunity and started flights to Bangkok Airport. The passenger volume at Don Muang would only increase from here.
Don Muang’s activity was boosted when the Vietnam War rolled around, the US Air Force (USAF) used it as a logistics and command hub while serving commercial flights at the same time. By 1990, Don Muang’s air traffic was just as heavy as Kai Tak airport. For the next ten years, Don Muang stayed at this level.
Still Going 2000 – 2019
By the early 2000s, flights were at an all-time high at Don Muang. At its peak, 80 airlines were serving at Don Muang, and there were 52 flights an hour, being the 18th busiest airport in the world and 2nd busiest in Asia by passenger volume. In 2005, Thai Airways launched flights from New York’s JFK to Bangkok Don Muang, using their A340-500 aircraft, this only boosted the number of arrivals and departures. Unfortunately, this all came to a half when a new airport came, Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport, it was newer, more attractive, more modern, and larger despite having the same amount of runways as Don Muang’s two. This meant that airlines left Don Muang for Suvarnabhumi. Thai Airways International and other major airlines moved away and Don Muang was left inactive. This caused the government to shut it down in 2006. It soon re-opened when low-cost airlines and regional carriers realized that Suvarnabhumi airport was too expensive. As Suvarnabhumi was more extensive and more popular, Don Muang lost its BKK IATA code which was given to the former. The latter then gained a new IATA code which was DMK.
In 2011 Bangkok was hit by a devastating flood that ruined many areas and left hundreds and thousands of people homeless. Unfortunately, DMK was hit very hard by these floods. The entire ground floor of the airport was submerged, and the aircraft parked there were ruined. The general manager of DMK airport Mr. Chaturong Kapon stated “I didn’t think I’d live to see the day when Don Muang was almost drowned”. The flood caused Don Muang to be shut down for a whole year for repairs. Don Muang recovered from the flood and re-opened in 2012. Orient Thai Airlines and Thai Sky Airlines jets were a common sight seen at Don Muang until they went bankrupt and ceased operations in 2018 and 2006 respectively.
Present Day 2022
Don Muang International Airport runs mainly regional and domestic flights now. The main airlines serving Don Muang are low-cost carriers, Nok Air, Thai AirAsia, ThaiAirAsiaX, and ThaiLion Air. Don Muang is Asia’s oldest standing airport and has seen 108 years of action. It saw the two world wars, the Cold War (including Vietnam), and many other important events in history. Don Muang Intl Airport is also the only airport in the world to have an 18-hole golf course between its two runways. In 2019, the airport had 41.3 million passengers served. The remaining international routes that are operated at Don Muang are to:
- Thailand (Domestic)
- Malaysia – Most popular international route
- Sri Lanka
- The Guardian
- Bangkok Post
- Airways Magazine