Monday, August 24, 2009

Phuket Boost as Air Asia Plans More Flights

16 August 2009

PHUKET will be an international hub for Air Asia by the end of the year, the CEO of Thai Air Asia, Tossapon Bijleveld, said in Phuket on Friday.

While other, older airlines were struggling, Air Asia passengers increased by 20 percent in the first half of 2009, he told a business conference at Royal Phuket City Hotel in Phuket City.

Seventy percent of customers were expats, Khun Tossapon added. As many as 85 percent of bookings were now made online.

'That's our big advantage,'' he said. ''We don't have high costs so we can offer better value in the price of tickets.''

New aircraft were on order, and the additions to the fleet would give Air Asia the opportunity to fly direct from Phuket to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, Guangzhao in China, and Bali and Medan in Indonesia.

He would also like to fly daily direct from Phuket to Chinag Mai, to open up travel between the north and south in Thailand.

In terms of marketing, he said that Air Asia had become well known in Europe through its association with the Manchester United football club.

The airline's relationship with sporting clubs would be expanded to the US, Australia and Japan.

Takeup rates for the internet throughout Asia showed Korea and Japan among the highest level, above 70 percent, with the takeup rate of 20 percent in Thailand and just 10 percent in Indonesia indicating plenty of room for expansion.

Air Asia is offering a 750 baht promotion for people to go from Bangkok to Chiang Mai to visit the cute baby panda, and the ticket can be used to gain discounts at resorts, too.

That's typical of where the Malaysian based airline is leading the industry, with Air Asia especially keen to become the airline for travel from one part of South East Asia to another.

''Phuket can have tourism but you need airline support to make sure the routes are open to bring them in,'' he said. ''Packaged promotions will give visitors financial advantages.

''Once we open up Phuket to the large population centres in the region, improvements in growth should be seen rapidly.''

Although the Internet is vital to Air Asia's business, the airline opened an office in Patong earlier this year and plans to open another in Phuket City later this year.

CHARTER flights were coming as usual this green season, Somboon Jirayus, president of the Phuket Tourist Association, told the conference, using the term ''green'' rather than ''summer.''

The popular Australian discount airline,Virgin Blue, will fly to Phuket twice a week from April next year, he said. Virgin Blue flies the Perth-Bali route up to five times a day.

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