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Another plane, more noise: Phuket is coming to realise tourism sacrifices

UPDATE Phuket Airport Noise Brings Protest as Island Wakes Up to Numbers Game

Monday, September 16, 2013
PHUKET: Residents living around Phuket International Airport are meeting with the facility's management today to protest about losing too much sleep.

There's a lot more Phuket could lose, too.

The protest brings sharply into focus the issue of just how many tourists Phuket can sustain without making unacceptable sacrifices.

The holiday island is struggling to protect its beaches and coral reefs because huge numbers of tourists are coming, despite stressed or overloaded infrastructure.

With Phuket airport's daytime capacity at full stretch, more charter flights are being scheduled in the early morning hours - when nearby residents are trying to grab some uninterrupted shuteye.

''Day and night, our lives are blighted by aircraft noise,'' said one resident before heading to the meeting. ''There are more than 200 takeoffs and landings every 24 hours.''

With one million passengers arriving and departing in August for the first time ever, the total number of passengers using Phuket International Airport is likely to exceed 11 million this year.

Many of the additional flights from China now have to be scheduled after midnight because Phuket's daytime arrival and departure schedule is full.

About 30 residents met at Phuket airport with AoT Director and airport general manager Prathuang Somkhom. He said a lot of information had been passed on to local village leaders.

But, the residents said, the village leaders had neglected to get in touch with the residents.

One woman, Payao Yotharak, 41, said her house had been cracked by vibrations from low-flying aircraft.

Rubber trees had wilted from fumes and residents wondered what effect the increasing number of aircraft was having on their own health.

Imam Det Tongyon said a religious school at one mosque had been forced to move elsewhere because students were not able to concentrate for the aircraft noise.

Conditions were growing ''worse and worse,'' protesters said, with little consultation with locals since the airport opened decades ago.

A private consulting firm came from Bangkok to look at the problem for just two days in February, the group said, then disappeared. Residents who happened to be away at the time had no chance to give opinions.

Khun Prathuang said he had instigated moves to investigate the issue and believed that residents would be compensated for damage to their homes, in the same way that residents near Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok had been compensated.

He promised them the issue would be resolved ''before the end of 2015'' and said he would visit eight mosques in the district on Fridays to explain the situation first-hand.

While they had the attention of the general manager, some residents asked if concessions could be made to give local taxi drivers good positions in the airport taxi queues.

The good news for people who would like to see tourism taper off so the island's natural attributes can be preserved for future generations is that there's no room for a second runway at Phuket International Airport.

The new international terminal under construction will have a capacity of 12.5 million passengers when completed. This is likely to be a realistic figure, unlike the capacity of the present terminal, which has been stretched well beyond its theoretical capacity of 6.5 million.

With just one runway on Phuket, greater numbers of flights can only mean one thing: arrivals and departures are likely to have to extend further into the sleeping time of nearby residents.

Because new airline schedules have to be booked months in advance, Phuket airport management should be able today to tell residents whether to expect less sleep this coming high season.

At least one five-star resort, constructed on the airport's northern boundary, is also bound to endure the same need for double-glazing on all windows.

With new records coming every month, debate is now focussing on the issue of taking time out from the 20-percent growth each year in tourist numbers to retain the island's quality appeal.

While the number of tourists continues to rise rapidly, the actual revenue generated on Phuket has declined. Because big numbers also lead to degradation of Phuket's natural assets, the beaches and the reefs, this is a lose-lose equation.

Ironically, today's protest comes on the anniversary of one of Phuket airport's blackest days, the crash of a One-Two-Go flight from Bangkok in 2007 with the loss of 90 lives. Forty people survived.

The complete results of investigations into the tragedy have never been released by Thai aviation authorities.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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I'm not sure where these residents live, since the runway/flightpath is immediately over the sea from the west and almost immediately over the sea to the east.

One of my airport hotels is 200 metres from the runway, but the noise is as expected and acceptable.

You should not build your house/condo near to an expanding airport and not expect some aircraft noise.

Posted by Simon Luttrell on September 16, 2013 11:13

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I agree with Simon. What about the old idea with a runway build out in the sea?

Posted by Hans on September 16, 2013 11:38

Editor Comment:

Wouldn't planes still have to take off and land over homes at the landward end?

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I used to live at Nai Yang, moved away two years ago because of the increase in noise at night time, thankfully I didn't purchase property there, I feel sorry for the old long term residences, all in the name of progress....

Posted by coxo on September 16, 2013 12:00

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I live under the southern flight path and noted Thai Air Asia routinely flies very low and very slow which is as unsafe as it gets if a problem arises. Other airlines are twice as high and fast. Saving fuel, or sightseeing?

Posted by mediawatcher on September 16, 2013 12:23

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It's the same problem all over the wold... People like to move near to an airport or airfield be course of the lover Prices on land... After a few years they start to complain about noise from the airport...

Posted by Jan Ulrik on September 16, 2013 13:36

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Recorded income is down because of the amount of 'tea' being consumed by the businesses hosting these Chinese guests.

Posted by gee on September 16, 2013 14:57

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About a runway build out in the sea would be an extra runway so planes don't have to come early morning and late night

Posted by Hans on September 16, 2013 15:27

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"flies very low and very slow which is as unsafe as it gets if a problem arises."

pilots are speaking! listen up guys!

only that FAST landings are the only dangerous way of landing, which happens around the world as ordered by the towers because of increased traffic,
every pilot complaining about too fast, dangerous landings speeds which result btw in longer, louder reverse thrust while stopping,
and the guy complains about "slow" landings,
hilarious

Posted by max on September 16, 2013 16:09

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MAx, you might have guessed, but I'll clarify. Flying slower and lower is dangerous on take offs. Yes, too fast landings are also dangerous , all to save time and money with safety out the window

Posted by Media Watcher on September 21, 2013 12:13


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