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Will Air Asia become Phuket’s favorite airline?

April 23, 2010

Thai AirAsia CEO Tassapon Bijileveld (right) presented a model aircraft to Phuket Governor Wichai Phraisa-ngop at last year’s launch of the airline’s Phuket Air Hub.

PHUKET: Given its penchant for quickly fleeing the scene by abandoning routes (such as Phuket-Perth and Phuket-Singapore) when business turns bad, and following notorious fare hikes on routes into Phuket earlier this month, THAI Airways has exposed itself to disenchantment across a wide swath of Phuket’s resident market.

And now the island resort province has an increasingly credible suitor – Thai AirAsia (TAA) – which appears hell bent on grabbing a bigger piece of Thailand’s second most important air travel market (after Bangkok).

The Bangkok Post reports today that TAA, which established a permanent Air Hub in Phuket five months ago, will increase services on three domestic routes in Thailand beginning on June 1 – this, in spite of declining travel demand caused by local political unrest, sluggish economic conditions and the ‘low-season’ factor.

Services will be doubled to twice daily on the Phuket-Chiang Mai and Bangkok-Ubon Ratchathani routes, and to daily flights (from four times a week) on the Phuket-Udon Thani route.

In celebration of the increased frequencies, TAA is offering low fare tickets, starting from 499 baht all-inclusive, for the one-way trip on these sectors until May 2. The tickets are valid for travel between June 1 and Feb 13 next year.

AirAsia marketing manager Chuenjit Chotewittayakul told the Phuket Gazette two weeks ago that AirAsia’s Phuket Hub has expanded significantly, now offering direct, round-trip services to five international destinations – Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Medan and Ho Chi Minh City – as well as direct domestic flights to Chiang Mai, Udon Thani and Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok.

“We will offer more flights in the future and plan to launch services from Phuket to India this year, she said, adding that “Thai AirAsia expects to service five million passengers in 2010.”

Amid these developments, THAI Airways, citing ‘fuel price increases’, hiked the price of an ‘economy’ class ticket on the Bangkok-Phuket route by 46%, while the fare between Chiangmai and Phuket suffered a whopping 64% rise. Both fares became effective on April 1.

With TAA continually adding new aircraft, new destinations and new-age fares to its “AirAsia Loves Phuket” promise, one might easily be seduced into speculation over what new slogan, if any, the national airline might employ as an antidote.


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