Phuket airport reopening on Saturday
Carriers gearing up to offer flights from Tuesday
PHUKET: The airport on this resort island will be open for business on Saturday after receiving the green light on Friday from the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT).
However, it is not clear whether any domestic flights will be landing or taking off in Phuket over the weekend. Carriers including Thai AirAsia had been making plans earlier to resume flights starting from Tuesday.
The announcement on Friday by the aviation regulator simply added Phuket International Airport to the list of airports already allowed to operate limited domestic flights and specially authorised international flights to repatriate tourists stranded in Thailand. Phuket airport was already operating the latter throughout the long lockdown.
Phuket, which was subjected to one of the most stringent lockdowns in the country, has had no local coronavirus infections for 19 days. Local authorities reopened all of the island’s beaches last Saturday.
The Provincial Communicable Disease Committee on Friday reiterated the need to continue with social distancing and avoidance of large gatherings to prevent any new Covid-19 cases.
The island is heavily dependent on tourists to keep its economy afloat, and the virus outbreak has devastated many related sectors, including property.
The CAAT had banned domestic flights to and from Phuket since April due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The province earlier planned to open the airport on May 16 and received the go-ahead from the CAAT. However, the aviation regulator was overruled by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CSSA) due to health concerns.
Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said before the CCSA meeting on Friday that there were no reasons to continue the shutdown of Phuket airport as the province had seen no new infections for 19 days, and after the reopening of Suvarnabhumi and other major airports for regular flights.
Inbound international flights remain banned at all Thai airports until the end of the month. Authorities are now discussing the possibility of opening up to limited arrivals under the “travel bubble” concept, but the timing remains to be determined.