The International Air Transport Association (IATA) issued a safety bulletin on May 7, 2018 in which it calls the flight crews for caution while operating at Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK) in Bangkok, Thailand.

“Soft ground conditions or “soft spots” have been encountered and reported by flight crews and ground service providers at BKK since at least 2008,” says the bulletin. The problem is affecting taxiways and stands of the airport apron. The causes of those soft spots are apparently poor choice of material for the pavement, and a high water table under the airport. Both these factors weaken the parts of the tarmac subject to heavy traffic, creating soft spots after only two years of operations, against seven years in normal conditions.

Maj Kamol Wongsomboon, executive vice president responsible for Suvarnabhumi airport maintenance stated that improvements were already underway. A task force was set up for quick temporary repairs in order to minimize traffic disruption. However, Airports of Thailand (AOT) notified that the long-term repairs had been cancelled in their design phase and would not be carried before the end of 2019.

Pending a thorough renovation of the apron, the current asphalt will be upgraded with higher quality material, says Maj Kamol. A draining system is also being tested and will be applied to weak zones if effective.

IATA advises the companies operating at Suvarnabhumi to warn their crews of the situation. The flight crews should report immediately to the AOT any damage spotted on the taxiways and stands, before filing an official report.

Back in 2016, Tony Tyler, CEO of IATA, was already warning Suvarnabhumi airport that short-term solutions were not good enough. “Literally, nothing less than a concrete solution will do,” said Tyler. “Extraordinary power that aircraft need to use around soft spots and extra-towing expose ground personnel, equipment and aircraft to safety risks.”