Critics of high-priced airport food and beverages contend that the Magic Food Court at Suvarnbhumi is difficult to find. (Photo via Airports of Thailand)

Deputy Transport Minister Pailin Chuchottaworn will today visit Suvarnabhumi airport to inspect food and beverage prices at the airport’s restaurants and stalls, following continued criticism that prices are too high.

The minister said the visit’s main objective will be examining the amount of advertising and public relations the airport has provided regarding its food court, which sells food at comparatively cheaper prices.

Suvarnabhumi’s Magic Point food court, located at Gate 8 on the first floor, sells “street food” including even som tam (papaya salad) for as little as 30 baht, according to the airport’s website. “Whether the food at the airport is expensive or not is ultimately the consumer’s choice, realistically speaking,” Mr Pailin said.

“If the consumer needs a more cost-friendly option, there should be shops at the airports for them to choose from, clearly marked as such.”

However, he said the location of a food court selling food at cheaper prices would “naturally” be placed in a less-accessible location than other shops which have paid higher bids for prime spots at airports.

Preceding the deputy minister’s inspections, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha called for officials to conduct probes into the prices of food and beverages at both Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi airports. This follows criticism from Japanese travellers on social media that the airports sell unreasonably expensive food.

Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT), a state enterprise, operates both airports, and is also responsible for renting out space to businesses interested in selling items at the airports. AoT authorities say the contracts last three to five years. Don Mueang’s contracts specify items can be marked up by a maximum of 20%, set against base prices at luxury malls, while Suvarnabhumi is allowed a 25% markup.

“We must understand there are massive construction and operation costs for each airport, and several shops at these airports operate for 16-18 hours per day,” Mr Pailin said yesterday. “We cannot expect these shops to operate under the same costs as those outside the airport.”

He said the Transport Ministry had instructed the AoT to establish a committee to conduct monthly inspections of food and beverages at their airports, after he visited Don Mueang airport for an inspection last Friday. The AoT has been accused of allegedly marking up prices above those specified in its contracts, prompting a probe by the Office of the Ombudsman set to begin next month. “The alleged tea money scandals are internal issues which they must settle themselves,” Mr Pailin said.

“Everything will be revealed in the prices of the food, whether or not they reflect the markups specified in their contracts. If the prices are marked up consistent with their contracts, they are in the right; if not, they are at fault,” he added.

Meanwhile, Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith and Tourism and Sports Minister Weerasak Kowsurat yesterday agreed to establish a joint committee to speed up tourism improvement projects.

News Reporter

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