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Six Million passengers

December 3, 2010

PHUKET air traffic has soared to a new annual record, bursting the six million passenger trips barrier for the first time.

The news came today with the announcement of the first direct flight from Teheran to Phuket, which arrives on Tuesday.

Last month’s Phuket International Airport figure took the passenger tally for 2010 to 6,312,719 trips, the first time Phuket has soared so high – and there’s still one month to go.

Passenger numbers for arrivals and departures surged by 23.44 percent last month, largely on the back on an upward rise of 49.24 percent in international traffic.

On Tuesday, the number of flights will increase still more with what Mahan Air is describing as ”the first scheduled non-stop flight from the Middle East region to the island.”

The airline is using a 243-seat Airbus A300-600 aircraft in two-class configuration.

Flight 5049 leaves the Iranian capital at 9.30pm on Mondays and arrives at 8am the following day, a trip of seven hours. The weekly departure time from Phuket will be 10.40pm each Tuesday.

Regional Director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Bangornrat Shinaprayoon, said the airline expected that the route would be popular and expand quickly.

Medical tourism is a likely benefit. People acclimatised to Middle East heat usually enjoy the wetter mid-year weather on Phuket.

The airline’s announcement says: ”Mahan Air is pleased to include this terrific new addition to its international portfolio and is delighted to be the first airline in the Middle East to offer our local and connecting passengers one of the most beautiful leisure destinations in the world.

Iran is a rapidly growing source of visitors to Thailand. Immigration statistics show that from  January to September this year, 136,576 Iranians entered Thailand, an increase of 72.7% over the same period in 2009. About 114,100 were identified as tourists, an increase of 63.3%.
Another Middle East brand, Qatar Airlines, flies daily to Phuket from Doha but connecting first via Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. Nine flights a week by Mahan Air already service the Bangkok to Teheran route.

November figures from Phuket International Airport show the number of international passengers rapidly gaining on domestic passengers.

The figure of 6.3 million to December 1 nudges the airport’s predicted maximum annual traffic capacity of 6.5 million, and authorities have had to smooth the flights process to surge beyond it. Flights totalled 4286 for the month and 43,672 for the year so far.

Concern is growing that plans to expand Phuket’s existing airport to cater for 12.5 million arrivals and departures by 2015 may not be sufficient to cope with continued boom-level growth.

The Minister of Tourism and Sports, Chumpol Silapa-archa, said at Monday’s opening of the island’s first Westin resort that Phuket needs a better way of dealing with its rapidly increasing tourism numbers.

He called for a new airport, and a government declaration to give Phuket the freedom to operate as a special economic zone.


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