Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Fuel prices stall Bangkok Airways expansion

Bangkok Airways' plan to launch new international routes from its second hub on Koh Samui island in southern Thailand has been stalled by high oil prices and the slowing global economy.

Now the country's largest privately owned carrier will wait to see what happens with oil prices, reports the Bangkok Post.

''Within this year we should have a fairer idea on the trend of fuel prices and make decisions [on new routes] accordingly,'' said Bangkok Airways vice-president Komkrich Sriyabhandha.

Scheduled flights from Samui to Kuala Lumpur, Bali, Macau and Shanghai had been planned, and the carrier had also intended to later link Samui with Trat and Hua Hin. New routes are part of the airline's plan to make Samui a fully fledged second international air hub after Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport.

Bangkok Airways has two regional routes out of the resort island, Hong Kong and Singapore, with daily services using an Airbus 319 jetliner. It also has 20 flights a day between Samui and Bangkok.

Komkrich said passenger traffic through Samui this year was expected to remain at last year's level of 1.35 million people because of sluggish tourist flows. But the carrier intends to ramp up its services through Samui to 34 flights a day next month to meet peak-season demand.

Environmental restrictions, however, limit flights to 36 a day.

Following an expansion, the Koh Samui airport is capable of handling six million passengers a year, four times more than previously.

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