Officials have slapped a ban on private aircraft movements through Phuket during the holiday season to ease congestion worsened by airport expansion work.
Closed to private jets: the aerial view of Phuket airport.
The 16-day ban, in the form of not providing time slots for take-off, landing and parking, came into effect on Wednesday as the airport struggled to cope with the surge in traffic during the Christmas/New Year period.
The closure of three aircraft parking bays to speed up work on the 5.7-billion-baht expansion was cited by officials as the main reason for denial of private jet flights.
"We simply have no room to accommodate the private jet movements in the period when the airport must grapple with huge airline traffic," airport general manager Prathuang Sornkhom told the Bangkok Post.
Phuket airport is handling some 200 aircraft movements each 24-hour period, and because of the lack of time slots, many carriers switch to larger aircraft such as jumbo 747s during Dec 25-31, adding to the overcrowding.
"In view of the limited capacity, our priority is to serve the majority airline passengers," Mr Prathuang said.
The ban means that elite travellers such as global celebrities, corporate leaders and billionaires must divert their private jet flights to other airports in the region such as Krabi and travel by road to Phuket; change holiday destinations to other places like Langkawi or Maldives; or put off their visit to the Thai island until after Jan 3.
Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT), which operates the country's six major airports including Phuket, expects work on the three closed parking bays to finish on Jan 3 if not sooner, according to Mr Prathuang.
Mjets, Thailand's biggest private jet terminal operator, is unhappy about the Phuket airport ban, which came at short notice and left the company with almost no alternatives to serve clients.
Mjets executive chairman Jaiyavat Navaraj yesterday estimated that Phuket would lose 50 private jet flights during the festive season.
The company, controlled by Minor Group tycoon Bill Heinecke, has seen a loss of eight international clients in the period.
"These private jet travellers belong to international elite groups, and each of them would contribute half a million baht to the Phuket economy that will be lost," Mr Jaiyavat said.
Speaking to the Post, he said officials should allow private jets to drop off their passengers at Phuket, then fly off and pick them up when they finish their stay.
"I believe proper management would enable the airport to accommodate private jet movements even during the stressed period," he said.
AoT is trying to speed up the airport expansion, which has been eagerly awaited by businesses and communities for whom airport congestion has become a way of life.
It hopes to finish the work, which began in September, in 30 months instead of 36.
About the author
- Writer: Boonsong Kositchotethana
Position: Deputy Editor Business