Thursday, September 24, 2009

AirAsia goes inter from Phuket

22 September 2009

Thai AirAsia is opening a second base in Phuket for international services at a time when much of the aviation industry remains in the doldrums and some airlines are making cutbacks.

Thai AirAsia staff last Friday celebrate receiving the airline’s 10th brand new Airbus A320 at Suvarnabhumi Airport.

As part of an aggressive growth strategy the no-frills carrier has firmed up plans to link the southern resort island with four major regional cities from November.

The airline now has a single international service to and from Phuket-Singapore, and flights to Bangkok.

Thai AirAsia will introduce daily flights from Phuket to Jakarta and to Hong Kong from about mid-November. Daily services to Ho Chi Minh City and Medan will start a month later, said chief executive Tassapon Bijleveld.

The airline will station two A320 jetliners, each capable of carrying 180 passengers, at Phuket International Airport and will set up a crew centre and an aircraft maintenance support base there. Plans are under way for the airline to set up a third Thai hub in Chiang Mai next year to tap alternative traffic opportunities to its Bangkok base.

Phuket offers promising traffic potential, especially from those who want to travel directly to and from the island, said Mr Tassapon.

"There are risks involved in opening the Phuket base but they are calculated ones," he told the Bangkok Post.

Having additional hubs to Bangkok increases the airline's options for keeping its passenger traffic flowing through Thailand, particularly if Bangkok encounters political troubles like the blockade of Bangkok's two airports late last year.

Depending on the response to its international services through Phuket, the carrier may connect the island with cities in the Philippines and India, where it plans to establish a foothold next year.

The airline brought its 10th brand new Airbus A320 jetliner into service last Friday, and is due to take delivery of the 11th in December.

Thai AirAsia is due to start a new route - Bangkok-Taipei - on Friday and to begin a second daily Bangkok-Hong Kong service on the same day.

The airline will next month scale back flights on some routes - Bangkok-Hanoi from twice to once daily, Bangkok-Macao from four to three times per day and Bangkok-Penang from twice to once daily - to correspond to traffic demand.

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