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Air Asia dumps Phuket-Ubon service

PHUKET: Fury and frustration has greeted an apparently sudden decision by low cost carrier AirAsia to dump its direct flights from Phuket to Bali and Ubon Ratchathani, at a moment’s notice.

Alasdair Forbes

Friday 28 September 2012, 10:58AM

The wai that says goodbye: Thai AirAsia abruptly cancelled direct flights between Phuket and Bali and Phuket and Ubon Ratchatani from Oct 1. Photo AFP
The wai that says goodbye: Thai AirAsia abruptly cancelled direct flights between Phuket and Bali and Phuket and Ubon Ratchatani from Oct 1. Photo AFP

The services have been dropped because Thai AirAsia has decided that routes to China are a more lucrative option.

The direct flights between Phuket and Bali and Phuket and Ubon will be dropped from Monday (October 1). This includes return flights for people who have already flown out of Phuket. They are being offered return flights through Bangkok or refunds. 

Two people caught in the Thai AirAsia muddle were Phuket couple Clare Bolzon and Mark Crocker. They took off on Monday for a break in Bali to celebrate Mr Crocker’s 40th birthday, intending to fly back next Friday (October 5).

Mrs Bolzon wrote to The Phuket News, “We were actually in the taxi on the way to our hotel in Ubud, when I received the following text from AirAsia:

“ATTN: AirAsia flight FD3943 Denpasar to Phuket on the 5th Oct 2012 is no longer operating, pls contact +6625159999 or for a full refund or credit shell.’

“I tried to contact them as soon as I arrived at the hotel on the number they had given me, I also tried their office here in Bali but got no reply. I tried to live-chat, tweet, text and Facebook them. Not the best start to our holiday, it has to be said.”

AirAsia eventually agreed to a reroute via Bangkok. “What a saga,” Clare remarked. “Our trip back is now twice as long but at least we can get back without it costing a fortune.”

Meanwhile, Rob Williams, principal of YachtPro at Yacht Haven, had booked a return flight on AirAsia’s direct service between Phuket and Ubon Ratchathani. 

“In May I booked flights for our family of four to Ubon and back, to fly on November 1, on a promotion deal.

“I recently tried to book for a friend on the same dates but no flights came up.

“I had no notice from AirAsia of any cancellation.

“My wife rang the AirAsia Call Centre to check what was happening and was told the flights had been cancelled, so I sent an email through the AirAsia website.

“We subsequently were advised that my wife – unbeknown to her – had opted for a flight cancellation and credit while on the phone.

“I booked and paid for the flights so I am the only one who should be legally able to make a decision; AirAsia’s ‘contract’ is with me, a fact that the AirAsia Call Centre now refuse to acknowledge.

C and C Marine

“According to the call centre, we cannot get re-routed as our flights are gone, and there is no one of authority higher than a call centre operator who I can email or write to.”

Mr Williams calculates that buying new tickets via Bangkok will cost at least B20,000 more than he paid back in May for the special promotional rate tickets.

“This is not right and in my opinion it is a gross neglect of AirAsia’s duty of care.”

The Phuket News contacted a call centre person, who said that the services had been suspended “for commercial reasons”. She knew no more than this and could suggest no one else to talk to.

Flights between Phuket and Bali after October 1 were still for sale on the airline’s website on Tuesday. A notice finally went up on Wednesday (September 26) stating, “Hold on! Looks like the flights for this date are unavailable or sold out...” 

While all this near-secret cancelling of services was going on, AirAsia wheeled out its CEO Tassapon Bijleveld to ballyhoo a new service from Bangkok to Xi’an in China that will begin on November 16, making AirAsia “the only airline to operate this route”.

Mr Bijleveld gushed, “Thai AirAsia is very excited to launch our third new route in China this year. After the recent announcement of Bangkok-Wuhan, there has been positive feedback and demand for connectivity to China.”

On Wednesday The Phuket News received confirmation from Thai AirAsia that the disappearance of the Phuket-Bali service “is a permanent route suspension”.

The statement added, “Phuket-Ubon Ratchathani services will be suspended with the last flight on 29 September 2012. Same reason as Phuket-Bali.”

The reason? “We are now realigning our focus on the China market.”

Outside Thailand, other AirAsia services have been thrown in the trashcan. Kuala Lumpur-London has gone, as has KL-Paris and KL-Christchurch, along with all of the airline’s Mumbai and New Delhi links.

The statement explained, “The withdrawals are due to AirAsia X’s realignment of its network with AirAsia X focusing on its core markets and concentrating our capacity in Australasia, China, Taiwan, Japan and Korea where we have built up stable, profitable routes within an infrastructure that supports low cost services.”

In addition, the Phuket-Udon Thani route has also been stopped for two weeks. 
The Phuket News has been assured that this service has not been canned; it has only been “adjusted according to our seasonal flight schedule.

This will resume and go back to normal on 1 October 2012.”



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