On hand to lead the welcoming committee was Phuket Vice Governor Piyapong Choowong. Joining him were Monchai Tanode, General Manager of Phuket Airport; Thitiporn Maneenet, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Director for Europe, Africa and the Middle East; and Nanthasiri Ronnasiri, Director of the TAT Phuket Office.
Passengers boarded the Finnair flight, AY153 on the ARN - HKT route, at Arlanda Airport in Stockholm, and touched down in Phuket at 9:12am, reported the Airports of Thailand (AoT) Phuket office.
In total 135 foreign tourists were brought to Phuket under the Phuket Sandbox scheme, and were cleared through Gate 11,
The flight today marked the resumption of the Stockholm ‒ Phuket service after a hiatus of nearly two years, noted Vice Governor Piyapong.
“This is another important step in opening the tourism market to Phuket, after moving forward with the pilot project to open the area to receive foreign tourists as the first area [in the country] under the Phuket Sandbox project since July,” V/Gov Piyapong said.
“The project has been very successful in ensuring that it meets the standards set by the public health sector, along with the economic recovery of Phuket. It has built confidence as the first step of opening the country and as a model to open other pilot areas,” he added
“Tourists are welcome and glad to visit Phuket and Thailand again after not leaving their home countries for two years. As for the welcoming group, it was a joy to see the bright smiles of the visitors,” he said.
The return of the Finnair direct flights to Phuket follows Nitinai Sirisatthakarn, President of Airports of Thailand Public Company Limited (AoT), reporting that many airlines are returning “slots” ‒ bookings required to use airport facilities, including takeoffs and landings ‒ for the winter flight schedule,
“This reflects that the airline business is still highly uncertain,” he said, reported Thai PBS.
Mr Nitinai said the government’s ban on domestic flights from the end of July through September had resulted in Thailand’s aviation industry’s lowest performance on record.
During the period, the six airports operated by AoT averaged about 40-50 travellers per day. Flights resuming this month had seen passenger traffic at the six AoT-operated airports increase to an average of 30,000 passengers per day, he said.
Foreign airlines had returned about 70-80% of the flight slots available at Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports, he said.
At Don Mueang International Airport alone, overseas airlines had canceled 100% of all flight slots, while domestic airlines canceled 33%, he said.
Mr Nitinai added that the return of winter flight slots, from Oct 31, 2021 - March 26, 2022, reflected that airlines still view the situation as “highly uncertain” during these five months.
Pinyot Pibulsongkram, Commercial Director Thai Vietjet Airlines, said that although the aviation situation had improved, the overall picture is still considered that the airline industry is still in crisis, the report added.
For fiscal year 2021, the industry is expected to record a loss of more than B10 billion, recovering only slightly after losing B11bn in the first nine months of the year, Mr Pinyot said.
“The industry probably will not recover much [this year]. In fiscal year 2023, the aviation industry will still be in a state of repair,” he added.