AFTER MUCH DELAY, the new Bangkok International Airport, Suvarnabhumi airport, about 25km east of Bangkok, is due to start operations on September 28. 'It's been a dream for 40 years and we are 99 per cent ready,' said Chris Chantalitanon, general manager of Thai Airways in Hong Kong. The new airport was in the planning stage for decades, but civil construction got under way only in 2002. Thai Airways International, the country's national carrier, will be the biggest beneficiary when Suvarnabhumi opens. Besides operating flights to 11 domestic destinations and 61 international destinations in 34 countries, the airline company manages about 60 per cent of the ground support equipment services of the airport. It also provides catering services to dozens of airlines that stop over in Bangkok. Five times bigger than the existing airport, Suvarnabhumi is designed to handle 45 million passengers and 3 million tonnes of cargo a year, with space for further expansion. At peak times it can handle up to 76 international and domestic flights an hour. The company has made huge investments in the new airport. An IT system for the technical department alone carried a 650 million baht (HK$134.25 million) budget. The flight kitchen, costing more than 3.9 billion baht, will initially produce 65,000 meals a day and has the capacity to expand that figure to 86,000. The airport also heralds new routes for Thai Airways, including Bangkok-to-Johannesburg and Bangkok-to-Hyderabad flights. A third daily flight to Shanghai and two weekly flights to Beijing will be introduced as well. Meanwhile, the Thai Airways fleet is growing apace. Eight new aircraft are joining the fleet. These include four Airbus A340/500 and 600 series jets and four Boeing B777-200ER planes for intercontinental routes. Six double-decked A380 super jumbos will be joining from 2009. All this will be complemented by VIP lounges that allow Thai Airways first-class passengers a private check-in. 'Dare I say, these will be the best airport lounges in the world,' Mr Chantalitanon said. Thai Airways has turned profits annually for 41 years. In the 2005 financial year, it achieved a net profit of 6.8 billion baht.