Sunday, April 26, 2009

Airlines Liftoff Gives Phuket Fresh Flying Start

By Alan Morison
Saturday, April 25, 2009
BLUE skies lie ahead this week for Phuket and its potential as an air hub for the region.

On Thursday last week, the 14-member board of the Airports of Thailand flew to Phuket to meet and confirmed plans to almost double the capacity of Phuket airport before 2020.

On Thursday this week, low-cost carrier AirAsia will open a new store on the beach road in Patong with an extravagant giveaway of 700 umbrellas to the local municipality. And on Friday May 1, another low-cost carrier, Firefly, starts a new daily service between Phuket and Kuala Lumpur, giving passengers greater choice on the popular route.

Both brands are likely to be striving to compete for the attention of island residents and visitors over the coming months.

If the opening ceremony this week at the first Bangkok sales office for AirAsia is anything to go by, Thursday's event in Patong should be something to see.

Festivities at the Khao San Road sales office began with the handover ceremony of 30 decorated padthai carts to street vendors in the Banglumpoo area.

While Internet bookings are increasingly popular for flight seekers, face-to-face one-stop service is also seen as consistently important.

Patong is Phuket's equivalent of Khao San Road, and a whole lot more.

While AirAsia will be on the beach road, Firefly's new office, in the Jungceylon lifestyle mall, opened earlier this month.

Both airlines have strong Malaysian connections, with Firefly a community airline supported by the mainstream Malaysia Airlines (MAS).

It may also be no coincidence that Phuket's first four-day Halal Meeting and Exhibition on the Beach begins on April 30, with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva likely to make a visit to the island the following day for an official opening.

A trade and technology conference highlighting the potential of halal will take place at the Hilton Arcadia Phuket on Karon beach, with a four-day fair in the public park at Saphan Hin from Thursday.

Strong contributions from Indonesia and Malaysia should be evident at both events and tens of thousands of people are expected at the fair.

As for Phuket's future, it seems to be a good week to make a flying fresh start.

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