Wednesday, August 11, 2004

PHUKET AIRLINES: Plan to help set up Cambodian carrier

Published on Aug 11, 2004
Joint venture with Phnom Penh will establish national airline

Phuket Airlines will form a joint venture with the Cambodian government to help it set up a national carrier, to be called Air Cambodia. Chairat Meksukree, vice chairman of Phuket Airlines, which operates Phuket Air, said the deal is likely to be completed next year.

“We’ll be helping the Cambodian government set up its national airline. The joint venture will help us expand our international aviation business by getting us more flight slots from some key destinations,” he said.

“In addition, we also have a plan to open a hotel in Siem Reap,” where Angkor Wat is situated.

Phuket Air has developed from a small domestic airline into an international player to be reckoned with.

Starting off with a Bangkok-Chittagong-Dubai route, on July 1 the airline commenced inaugural flights to London, offering roundtrip tickets for Bt19,900. That price created a rush on airline tickets and British visas by prospective travellers. Some were reported queuing at the British embassy as early as 4am.

Phuket Air now flies the Bangkok-London route three times a week.

“We did not expect that it would be a big success. Initially, we thought that we would gradually build up the [Bangkok-London route]. But the response from the travellers has been very enthusiastic,” said Kavida Aisiri, the director of sales and promotions.

The airline’s planes flying the UK route have a capacity of over 400 passengers, and Kavida said they now have a load factor of 80 to 90 per cent on Bangkok-London flights.

The airline plans to have five London flights a week by October, she said.

Last year some 550,087 Britons visited Thailand, while 33,780 Thais travelled to the UK. The UK is the third most popular destination for Thais after Australia and Germany.

Phuket Air executives insisted the airline is not competing against Thai Airways International, the national carrier, as THAI’s service cannot sufficiently meet the growing needs of travellers.

“We are not competing against Thai Airways since there are more travellers than the airline can cope with,” Chairat said.

On October 1st, Phuket Air will add Sydney to its international route, using Boeing 747-300 air-craft. In November, the airline will start its flight

service to Moscow, a prime destination in Eastern Europe.

Thanong Khanthong

The Nation