Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Phuket air routes dropped

Thai AirAsia has suspended flights from Phuket to Ho Chi Minh City (HCM) and Medan as traffic demand has been lower than expected.

The suspension seems to weaken the budget carrier's drive since late last year to make the southern resort island its second hub in Thailand after Suvarnabhumi Airport.

The no-frills airline quietly ended daily Phuket-HCM services on May 15 and Phuket-Medan services, at thrice a week, on May 1. These flights began in December.

Chief executive Tassapon Bijleveld said the suspension was temporary and the airline was prepared to restore the flights back to its network once demand returns.

Vietnam's order prohibiting its citizens from visiting Thailand during the Kingdom's political turmoil in recent months contributed to the slump in demand.

"Honestly, I don't know when the demand will return but we will continue to monitor it," he said.

The airline, part of Malaysia-based AirAsia, is shifting the capacity from the suspended flights to other routes with stronger demand.

Beginning on June 21, Thai AirAsia will double the frequency on Phuket-Chiang Mai to twice daily, while ramping up Phuket-Udon Thani services, now at four flights a week, to daily.

Daily services from Phuket to Hong Kong, Phuket to Jakarta and Phuket-Singapore remain unchanged.

The airline has been looking at linking Phuket with Bali and Macau, he said.

"These are potential routes, but it is premature to say when we would launch them," he added.

The fallout from Thailand's deadly political clashes on the tourism industry is hurting the airline's network and flight expansion, he said, which is prompting the airline to redouble its marketing efforts.

On Monday, the airline put its 13th and 14th new Airbus A320s into regular service.

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