Mr Petch along with a host of Phuket tourism VIPs were present to welcome passengers as they disembarked the inaugural Myanmar Airlines direct flight from Yangon after it touched down in Phuket at 8:10pm Sunday (Mar 25).
Joining Mr Petch were Tourism of Thailand (TAT) Phuket Office Deputy Director Montri Manator, Phuket Chamber of Commerce Deputy President Thanusak Puangdej, Phuket Tourist Association Vice Presidents Ratanada Choochal and Panatchakorn Jaiyen, as well as representatives from the Southern Thai Hotels Association, among other local tourism organisations.
The Yangon-Phuket fights are served by Embraer 190 aircraft.
The service flies in both directions twice a week, on Fridays and Sundays.
Myanmar Airlines Flight UB31 departs Yangon at 5:55pm Myanmar time and lands in Phuket at 8:15pm on both days.
Flight UB32 departs Phuket at 9:15pm and lands in Yangon at 10:35pm Myanmar time. (Thailand is 30 minutes ahead of Myanmar.)
Mr Petch also heralded new direct flights by two airlines from China also launched on Sunday as good news.
Xiamen Airlines now provides daily direct flights between Fuzhou and Xiamen to Phuket, while Hebei Airlines flies direct daily between Phuket and Shijiazhuang, about 260 kilometres southwest of Beijing.
All three services are served by Boeing 737-800 aircraft.
“These flights from overseas to Phuket mark new routes for travelling. The direct flights are good in that they show the airlines’ confidence in Phuket and they will support Phuket’s economy, too,” Mr Petch said.
Mr Petch noted that the new routes opening were a result of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) lifting its “red flag” on Thailand as a country for air travel safety concerns.
ICAO first first initiated the “red flag” status for Thailand in 2015, and finally removed it in October last year.
“Although the full facilities at Phuket International Airport are not yet 100% complete, Phuket International Airport is still trusted by international travellers and a range of airlines, as we can see by the growth in the number of flights and passengers,” Mr Petch said.
“Right now, we have accelerated the improvement of facilities and (taken steps to have) minimal impact on the (facility’s) users, especially the domestic passenger terminal, which will be fully operational around June this year,” Mr Petch added.