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Crowds flock to the airport late at night when China flights depart

New Phuket Airport Likely to Exceed 12.5m Capacity Before It Even Opens

Saturday, August 8, 2015
PHUKET: The new Phuket International Airport is likely to exceed its capacity before its formal opening next year, latest air passenger figures for the popular holiday island reveal.

In usually quiet July the airport, where construction continues on a new overseas terminal, coped with more than one million arrivals and departures.

The total of 1,043,046 passengers was 28.57 percent up on the same month last year. It's the first time six figures have been exceeded in a low-season July.

With the tally for the first seven months of 2015 exceeding 7.4 million, the year's total of passengers seems certain to exceed the 12.5 million that has been set as the capacity for the new Phuket airport, which won't even open until early 2016.

The Airports of Thailand figures provide raw data for an assessment of traffic flowing through the Andaman region's main piece of tourist infrastructure.

What the numbers for 2015 so far mean for Phuket and the neighboring tourism provinces of Phang Nga and Krabi is not so easy to interpret.

Passenger numbers at Phuket International Airport dipped in June and July last year following a military takeover in Thailand after five years of continuous month-by-month growth.

The hiccup has not simply been corrected but replaced with a substantial upturn. Domestic travellers rose year-on-year by 34.43 percent while the international passengers increased 23.69 percent.

Bearing in mind January's top figure of 1.2 million, Phuket has recorded more than one million arrivals and departures every month of 2015 with the exception of May (930,231) and June (862,989).

It's a sign of Phuket's soaraway success as a brand and a tourism destination.

Whether the vast numbers of tourists now coming to the island are the ones that Thailand wants or deserves remains a major talking point.

Chinese visitors now outnumber travellers from everywhere else - and the dangers of becoming a destination dependent on just one source for tourists are well known.

Phuket's success has come about because of its diverse appeal to Europeans, Aussies and many of Thailand's neighbors in Asia.

The main issues for the popular island now are infrastructure and sustainability.

With the pressure on the Andaman's natural reefs and beaches growing with every additional planeload, it's probably a good time for Thailand's tourism officials to declare that Phuket airport has enough visitors.

There is room to encourage more travellers through secondary airports at Krabi and Ranong but Phuket's image is being tarnished by success.

Resort rooms and apartments are plentiful. So are excessive prices and rip-offs.

It's time Thai authorities recognised that Phuket's extraordinary pulling power needs to be properly conserved and contained if it is to continue to succeed for more than a couple of years.

*Bear in mind that these figures are for arrivals AND departures across international and domestic flights. Too often, dodgy figures are used to attract and falsely boost investment in resorts and condos on Phuket for a market that just isn't there.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


I passed through HKT twice in July on international flights and on both occasions the immigration hall was virtually deserted.

On departure there were less than 10 people in total and on arrival only those 60 odd people arriving on my flight.

Took me no more than 5min to queue up and pass arrival immigration.

If these numbers are correct, those extra passengers must be flying at really odd hours.

Posted by Herbert on August 8, 2015 08:57


You see these people walking around on Phuket? No.... but i see it "full-house" here in Ao Nang. Krabi!

Posted by phuketgreed on August 8, 2015 09:38


Is there no such thinking of a 5 year or ten year growth plan?
The airport before it is built will be too. The new jail will be too small before it is even built, but the thinking is build it anyway.
The airport should be three times the size it is now and provision made for a second runway.
The new jail should be built to incarcerate at minimum, 6000 inmates.
Oh well it is only a thought?

Posted by Duncan on August 8, 2015 10:22



A lot of the chinese charter flights go after midnight, a friend took a cheap flight to Hong Kong recently that took off about 3am, terminal 2 and the departures hall were packed solid with chinese.


You are quite correct, these numbers do skew investment for sure. As the chinese tend to come on short trips (2 or 3 nights) the numbers through the airport are soaring.

What would be interesting would be to see how many tourist "nights" there are per month, for example a traveller staying two weeks counts as a "2" in the airport number but stays 14 nights.

Five people on short term packages count as a "10" in the airport numbers but only stay 10 nights between them. I would call that a sharp decline in revenue for the island, not a five fold increase.

If I were TAT I would prefer the former rather than the latter. The true measurement should probably be revenue for the island rather than airport numbers, but I guess that would not show success.

Posted by Discover Thainess on August 8, 2015 14:33


@ Discover Thainess

I know. I took the Cebu Pacific flight to Manila which departs at 11.30pm and despite that the immigration departure hall was deserted.

My experiences are of course not of statistical importance but in the past 6 months I've been in and out 3 times and every time passing immigration has been a breeze.

I'm certainly not complaining about but I find it odd that I and many of my friends keep seeing significantly less tourists and customers around but at the same time official arrival numbers skyrocket.

Either they are doctored or the amount of nights the new breed of tourists spend on Phuket is significantly less than the western clientel used to.

Posted by Herbert on August 8, 2015 15:48



My first guess is that your flight might have been during the time when china was hit by the typhoon and most of the flights were delayed or cancelled.

Posted by Sam on August 8, 2015 16:51


This isn't really new news. I remember you reported on this about a year ago, that it would be over capacity before it started.

All they need to do is improve immigration by having more than 10 lanes open.

Posted by Tbs on August 8, 2015 20:06

Editor Comment:

Indeed, our prediction has proven to be accurate so far.


@ Sam

I can't offer an educated opinion on that because I don't follow the typhoon situation in China with any degree of accuracy but it would be quite a coincidence if that was the reason on 4 (forgot my short trip to Singapore early July) separate occasions within the last 6 months.

Posted by Herbert on August 8, 2015 21:46


When the Chinese stock market drops which I think it will by over 25% before year end.....the numbers might need looking at with care...Chinese in most cases have forced the Europeans out. They are rude, aggressive and do not spend money locally just bused from place to place how sad they feel they cannot walk around like Europeans, they know what they are.... a fish out of water. Uneducated but with money. Educated people speak English like me, lol. I went to a top 20 school in the UK.

Posted by Fiesty Farang on August 9, 2015 03:37

Editor Comment:

Humility not on the curriculum, FF?


FF, sad they did not teach you an open mind in one of the top 20 UK schools and that you stereotype about the Chinese. Suggest you go back to school and update your knowledge about Chinese civilisation.

rgds, wm

Posted by wm on August 9, 2015 13:33



I lived in china for so many years, yet saw very little portion of civilization!
The chinese mainland tourists are basically reflecting a piece of it.

Posted by Sam on August 9, 2015 23:54



Could you please enlighten us of the "great" chinese civilization.
What we see from the mainland tourists are:
- spitting
- blowing nose
- speaking loudly in public
- eating with mouth wide open while talking

and shopping noodles at 7-11

Posted by Honey Bunny on August 10, 2015 09:55

Editor Comment:

That's true of some Chinese, HB, but not of all of them. The mistake is in extending the failings of some to the point where an opinion becomes a foolish and false generalisation. Only bigots do that.


It's a strange thing with prejudices.

When I say:

Germans are prompt and efficient.
Italians love dolce vita.
French understand something of good food.
Aussies like sports and barbecue.

I highly doubt that many will rise up and say c'mon, this are only some and its a foolish and false generalization.

Because it is proved a million times and is visible to everyone, that the majority in this countries is known for certain peculiarities.

But when I say:

Thais are bad drivers.
US Americans don't know geographical trivials.
Russians and Finns like vodka.
Chinese people are uncivilized.

Everything also millionfold proven and visible to everyone.
But you do not wait long until someone raises an objection in the way ED makes it.

There are just a few and you can not generalize, which is a killer argument, it kills any serious discussion and pushes me into the right corner, or at worst, I'm a racist.

It is easy to google, Chinese are the least popular tourists worldwide. So there must be something that makes Chinese unpopular, namely facts and not generalizations.

The majority of mainlanders is still far away from Western civilization, which is easy to see by anyone who want to see it, anywhere.

It is not useful to blame the bearer of this message, to say his generalisation is false and foolish.

Posted by Georg The Viking on August 10, 2015 14:15

Editor Comment:

Germans are prompt and efficient.
Italians love dolce vita.
French understand something of good food.
Aussies like sports and barbecue.

These generalisations are all unwise and essentially disproved easily, Georg, by anyone who comes from or has travelled to those countries. If you add the word ''most'' then you also add an essential degree of accuracy.

If you don't understand the difference between getting it right and getting it wrong, I feel sorry for you.

You are also wrong in saying:

Thais are bad drivers.
US Americans don't know geographical trivials.
Russians and Finns like vodka.
Chinese people are uncivilized.

Add the word ''some'' and you are being accurate. Without it, you are a being a bigot, ie applying untruths to everyone because of the behavior of some.

Simple enough?

Best to treat people as individuals, not to generalise. Pigeon-holing them on the basis of nationality or race or religion is the cause of most wars, and worse.


Racial prejudice is based on the second word which means to pre-judge. A comment such as ALL Chinese are uncivilized is wrong as you can't have met them all.

There is however an informed opinion or an opinion based on experience. I personally refuse to deal or do business with Chinese whenever possible. This is based on 30 years of being constantly swindled, over-charged and cheated by Chinese people I've dealt with in the past.

Am I prejudiced or simply making an informed choice based on my previous experience. The politically correct seem to think people should not have the right to discriminate. I say bullsh@t. I'll deal with whom I feel I should and that is my right.

I don't like queue jumpers, people coughing up loogies and spitting them in the street, people shouting at each other in public areas and leaving toilets in a disgraceful mess. So in the case of people like this I'm happy to be called prejudiced. The Chinese have form in these matters.

Posted by Arun Muruga on August 10, 2015 18:51

Editor Comment:

Could it be, AM, that you've spent 30 years dealing with the wrong kind of Chinese? There are people, you know, who spend time in the wrong part of Patong and their assessment of Thais and Thailand is based solely on their own poorly-crafted experiences. I would also suggest there's nothing racial about your prejudice. The race is Asian. Your prejudice appears to be based on nationality, therefore it's bigotry, not racism . . .


Obviously not all Chinese people behave like barbarians but a lot do and I'm bigoted about it for sure. I have the right to be.

Bigot- One who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance.

I'm totally guilty of intolerance to rude, loud-mouthed, queue jumping, unhygienic people. Political correctness will of course turn them into the victim and me into the persecutor.

Posted by Arun Muruga on August 10, 2015 20:03

Editor Comment:

Hatred and intolerance are a bit like violence, AM. Justifying them in any circumstance is difficult.


Well I could also make an argument that the editor is showing his own form of bigotry against free speech. Being intolerant of other people's opinion's.

In all the posts I've made here I cannot recall making negative comments about another person's posts as I believe they have the right to their own opinion. I might not agree with it but I would fight for their right to express it.

Your being unfairly prosecuted for something written on this blog. Your fighting intolerance for open and free reporting, then... acting like a tyrant against your own readers. Somewhat hypocritical to the free expression you yourself expect.

Posted by Arun Muruga on August 10, 2015 20:45

Editor Comment:

Opinions in no way have anything to do with free speech, AM. It would be a mistake to confuse the two - and an even larger mistake to confuse opinions offered anonymously online with real life. As for claims now that I'm ''somewhat hypocritical'' . . . not really. You are simply showing that you cannot tell the difference between real life and the pretence of anonymous online commentary. Bear in mind, though, that hatred, intolerance and violence remain the same and can easily be identified in both.

Would you really ''fight for the right'' of any and all online commenters to comment anonymously? Is that really what freedom of speech is all about? Or is it just anonymous online opinion?


Most of the people who comment here live on Phuket or have lived here. In many cases their opinions are more 'real life' as they are not constrained by the tedious political correctness infesting the media.

I don't know if you speak Thai but I speak on a daily basis to Thais of all status's and in many cases I'm just passing on what they tell me. They often tell me to speak out as they have no real avenue to criticize officialdom without consequences.

I agree that there is a difference between an opinion and a informed opinion. There is too much online bashing everywhere.

I think you should give us readers more credit in our ability to discern an informed opinion from belly-aching.

Intelligent people should be able to disagree without throwing a tantrum.

Posted by Arun Muruga on August 10, 2015 22:35

Editor Comment:

I don't ''bellyache'' or ''throw tantrums,'' AM. But I am no fan of racism, bigotry, or discrimination, for whatever reason. As far as I am concerned, we've had an informed debate and each explained our positions. If you have a problem with that, then perhaps it has something to do with your reluctance to have your viewpoint questioned. But as you know, it's a questionable viewpoint.
Your ''tedious political correctness infesting the media'' is actually an independent and well-informed moderator insisting that you consider treating others the way you wish to be treated.
While some see anonymity as a necessity, others use it as a smoke-screen that enables the worst aspects of their attitudes to be voiced. 'The Noble Aims of Anonymous Commenters' is a book that has yet to be written. I doubt it would attract a single gullible reader.


Interesting debate, I like that,
but please, Alan, not blame me for simplification

Look at your own arguments, you tell me to use the word "most", when it comes to positive prejudices.

Only some Thais are bad drivers? Why not most?

It is wrong to say that most Thais are good drivers we all know it.

How many percents separate many of some?

Muslims hate Arabs, Arabs hate jews. Many or some? What is allowed to say?

Of course you find US Americans with geographic skills and find civilized Chineses too.

And there are also good motorists in Thailand and Russians, who do not like vodka.

But who represents the majority? When the average life expectancy of a male Russian is only 64 years, may I say, the majority of Russian men die from alcohol abuse or not?
If in Thailand every year die 28,000 humans in road traffic, may I say, Thais are bad drivers or not?

Or only some?

Pitbulls are dangerous. Plants need photosynthes. Nazis are racists.
When I have to regard each time that there are exceptions, it is the death of every journalistic or scientific work.

And there remains the question of why no one in the world heartwarmly welcomes Chinese and Russians for customer.

These people are a difficult clientele, and it does not help when you say, some Chinese are actually civilised.

Posted by Georg The Viking on August 10, 2015 23:21

Editor Comment:

''When I have to regard each time that there are exceptions, it is the death of every journalistic or scientific work.''

Actually the capacity of ill-informed people to generalise and get the facts wrong is one reason for both science and journalism, Georg. I think most readers understand and acknowledge the importance of accurate information. Commenters who actually believe generalisations plucked from the air are a substitute for science and accurate journalism are one reason why the world's problems are not easily solved. Discrimination against minorities may be your preference. It is not mine.

''Muslims hate Arabs, Arabs hate jews.'' That sentence probably only accurately sums up one thing, Georg - the huge factual errors that occur with attempts at oversimplification. The world's problems are not solved by your inaccurate attempts at generalisations. Please get your facts straight.


Sorry Ed but I'm 100% with AM on this. You can't have it both ways. Many of your articles are titled as "News analysis", i.e. opinions.

Yours fall under Freedom of Speech but those of AM and countless others do not ?

As to being anonymous, you have my contact details and I always assumed AM is publishing with his real name too.

You just painted yourself into a corner Alan but knowing you, I know full well what's coming next. Try not to.

AM is one of the most worthwhile contributors on PW, please don't chase him away like you did to so many others (Martin for example) who are an essential part of the appeal of reading PW.

If you dare, put it to a test. Disable all the comments for 2 months and see how the visitor numbers nosedive.

Accept the fact that you NEED us. Even those of us who do not parrot your opinions.

Btw, when I see some Chinese (or any other nationality) shouting in my ear in public, I will shout back as loud as I can some choice words in my own (incomprehensible) language. This usually leaves them stunned and silence returns.

Posted by Herbert on August 11, 2015 00:27

Editor Comment:

There is no need to say ''sorry,'' Herbert. Agreeing with a wrong opinion is something you are entitled to do - indeed, I would expect nothing less from you.

AM at least appears to have the wit to understand that his views are part of the problem, not the solution. Most readers, unlike you, can tell the difference between real life and freedom of speech and anonymous online commenting and specious pleading. You may be the best-equipped person to write that book, 'The Noble Aims of Anonymous Commenters.' Good luck.


To hell with political correctness. I'm with you all the way, Arun Maruga.
I see very little benefit to the general community or to the island's wellbeing, all these chinese here.
And what's more i'm with those people who cast doubt on AoT's figures. I'm in and out of the airport every 90 days and it's never been so easy as this year.
Yeah, come on then Ed, sock it to me w**ker.

Posted by jimbo34 on August 11, 2015 03:41

Editor Comment:

Well, ''sock it to me w**ker'' explains to AM and Herbert precisely why I take the approach I do to anonymous commenters. Your argument is that it's your opinion that the AoT figures are wrong. Great research, jimbo34. How could anyone possibly doubt anything you say?


On an individual level statistics means nothing. Even more for perceived statistics or as I call it anecdotical evidence.

So if you write Thais are bad drivers, then some experience come to mind, with good and really bad drivers with Thai passport. If I have a new driver to go with, I really don't know before. I cannot say to him: you cannot drive, you are a bad driver, that would be stupid. Therefore I cannot say Thai drivers are bad. I don't even know if most are, in my experience not, its more like most drive slow and respectful privately, but I am not too much in Phuket anymore, more up country.

But what I can say is, driving on Thai roads is dangerous, because there are notorious fast drivers, drunken drivers, vehicles in bad shape, crazy wrong side driving shortcutting motorbikes, crazy weather conditions, a lot of underage driving a bike. I can criticize the drivers education as too superficial and too cheap. etc.

Prejudices are (see the case of AM) sometimes wisdom of a lot of experiences. If I am robbed three times in a bus, I do not use it anymore, I don't care if others are not.

If your marketing controlling shows, that you have to much costs of complains, time, no-show, bouncing cheques, whatever, from a group of customers, you tend to not cater them anymore. Perfectly fine.

Prejudgement do not come out of thin air, they are helpful simplifier for individuals to cope with the stress of otherwise a lot of information to digest, they take the burden of having to decide whom or what to trust with limited information.

But I should be open to change, to adapt them. Today prejudgements concerning race, gender or color of skin tend not be good judgements.

I have some concerning one world "religion" in particular, but I am open to be shown better. But I know, I keep them until that day.

Posted by Lena on August 11, 2015 17:32

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