Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Australian airlines and Thai AirAsia give a boost to Phuket

02 September 2009

Phuket will grow in popularity with foreign travellers as many new airlines will operate new flights this winter. Australian holidaymakers this winter will benefit of new routes inaugurated by two Australian carriers, Jetstar and Virgin Blue. Jetstar Group is already present in Phuket with frequencies to Singapore and Sydney. The airline will however add a second daily frequency from Phuket to Singapore with continuation to Perth in Western Australia. The new Jetstar route will be served with an Airbus A320 and is due to start from December 15th, offering then some 7,000 weekly seats to Thailand’s southern island. Jetstar operates already three weekly flights from Phuket to Sydney in Airbus A330-200.

Jetstar will however get a competitor on the same route with Pacific Blue, the subsidiary of Australian Virgin Blue starting twice-weekly service from Perth to Phuket, from November 14. It will be Pacific Blue second international destination out of Perth, following the opening of daily flights to Bali in June.

Tassapon Bijleveld, Thai AirAsia CEO, confirmed also the official launch in November of TAA newest base in Phuket. According to Bijleveld, the airline will base one aircraft in Phuket launching two new international destinations. Hong Kong is already confirmed but M. Bijleveld did not unveil the second destination -still not confirmed by authorities. " It could be a Phuket-Bali", he says. TAA wants to position three to four aircraft over the years to come and envision to operate flights to Ho Chi Minh City, Siem Reap and Vientiane in Indochina as well as to Jakarta, Medan and Surabaya.

Airports of Thailand AOT), Phuket international airport’s owner, announced at the end of last year to invest US$ 170 million into the expansion of the crowded airport with ageing passengers’ facilities. Phuket receives over 5.7 million passengers a year and needs a complete overhaul to be brought to international standards of comfort. AOT plans is to build a new international terminal for 6 million passengers, bringing the total airport’s annual capacity to 12.5 million passengers. AOT now expects that Phuket airport’s expansion -which includes the new international terminal, the improvement of the existing terminal as well as the upgrading of the jet fuelling system and runway’s layout- will commence by the end of 2010 and be completed by 2013. AOT gave already last May the green light to Hong Kong-based aviation services company ASA Group to develop Thailand’s first dedicated VIP private jet terminal at the airport.

Phuket is Thailand’s second largest destination with over three million tourists a year. From January to September 2008, the island received 1.531 million foreign travellers, down from 2.373 million a year earlier. Largest inbound markets to Phuket are in 2008 Sweden, Australia and Korea.

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