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Not enough tickets are being bought for the Airport-Patong bus

Airport Bus Needs People Who Care

Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Phuketwan News Analysis

PHUKET: The owner of the company running the Phuket Airport-Patong-Airport bus service admitted tonight that it hasn't started the way he'd hoped it would start.

If there is a sense of a 'Phuket Transport Evolution' among others, it certainly appears to be a gross exaggeration as far as reaction so far to the bus service is concerned.

Beyond the ephemeral, support for contractor Prakorb Panyawai and the innovative service - just what Phuket needs to change transport habits - hasn't exactly been overwhelming.

There are still too many holes in whatever strategy has been designed to influence Phuket people to abandon dangerous, road-clogging motorcycles in favor of safe, dependable buses.

In a revealing interview tonight, Khun Prakorb talked about his immediate problems. Basically, there hasn't been sufficient support for the bus service so far.

One would-be traveller, a Phuketwan reader, wrote asking: ''after waiting at tesco thalang trying to go to patong for more than 1 hour, I called airport bus express and was told the bus is not running ?

''the next one will be in 3 hours ? why ? we dont have customers so we dont go ? please can anyone follow up if this is a scheduled service or not.

''was hoping this service might work ! but it is not after only 4 days of service.''

Thanks you, Visitor to Phuket, for your honest and accurate summary.

Khun Prakorb was also honest and accurate with Phuketwan and told us he had already cancelled some services and adjusted others.

The night bus runs scheduled for 7.30pm and 8.45pm have already been cancelled, he said, because the area where the buses stop at Phuket International Airport is too dark for tourists to find at night.

He said he'd mentioned this to Phuket's Governor, who caught a bus at the weekend, and the Governor had said he would raise it with Airports of Thailand, which manages Phuket airport - from Bangkok.

Khun Prakorb said the new service was also facing pressure from the existing Phuket Airport to Phuket City bus service.

As a new service, he said he was obliged to defer to the longer-established service, so when their buses waited for passengers at, say, 8am and did not have enough until 8.30am, he was obliged to adjust his Airport-Patong timetable.

The result, he said, was that the Airport-Patong-Airport schedules no longer worked the way he had intended.

''We do not want to have problems with them, [the other bus line] so we adapt,'' he told Phuketwan this evening. ''We also do not want to change the official schedule because it will only confuse passengers.''

So there will continue to be disappointed passengers like Visitor to Phuket.

Since beginning on Friday, said to be the auspicious day, the Airport-Patong service - the word Express has never seemed appropriate - has operated only on weekends and two holidays, until today.

But Khun Prakorb says he is disappointed with the passenger response. Not only do passengers at the airport not seem to be aware of the service, but not enough people are hopping on or hopping off the way they were supposed to once the service began.

Phuketwan would hazard a guess and say ''Motorcycles are more convenient unless the authorities get serious about safety and decreasing traffic.''

Not sticking to the regular schedule is clearly a big problem for bus services everywhere, and alarming on Phuket so early in the life of a vital new connection that has public support.

Khun Prakorb, however, says he ''can't see any point'' in running a bus from the airport unless there is at least one passenger on board.

And there have been times since Friday - many times, in fact - when there has been no single passenger on board at the scheduled departure time from Phuket Airport.

What Khun Prakorb is already doing is running a minivan if there are not passengers for the regular bus.

A usual round trip from Phuket Airport to Patong and back to Phuket airport costs him 1000 baht to run, given fuel and staff.

But with a minivan, the costs are reduced to 600 baht. It's an option that Khun Prakorb is, sadly, already resorting to take at times.

He says passengers arriving at the airport peaks - he says they are at 10.30am and again at 3.30pm - produce the only two times when he has passengers for sure.

The rest of the time? Well, he says there are few passengers hopping on and off the bus along its route from Phuket Airport to Patong, which was one of the aims.

But with Phuket authorities failing to even attempt to persuade people to change their habits - riding a motorcycle at every option - what can be expected?

He's still unable to advertise the service inside the airport, so arriving tourists seldom know it's available.

He'd like a counter and a large billboard inside the airport building, but the airport director recently told him: ''Airport decision-makers [they're all in Bangkok] have yet to meet about your needs.''

Every day the new airport bus service goes on costs Khun Prakorb 7000 baht in outlays for drivers, ticket sellers, and additional costs.

In the first month, he says he's looking at a loss of 200,000 baht. He hopes he can keep going through to October and the high season, when he reckons things should be better.

Phuketwan wishes him the best of luck. With so little suport from Phuket's authorities, and without a strategy to change Phuket's transport habits, he's going to need plenty of luck.

And at least a few passengers.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


A 100-baht bus will never work in Phuket where people prefer to pay 1,000 baht or more to travel in a private car!

Posted by Anonymous on July 24, 2013 21:09


very disappointing to hear.

Posted by Sean on July 24, 2013 22:22


As I mentioned in earlier stages, the bus service has to be all over the island, and not just from the airport to patong. If you want to see people using the service, think about the thousands of children, that are forced to ride bikes to school, just because they have no choice. It's not rocket science, really. Start having hundreds of bus stops all over Phuket, and not just a few over a 50 km stretch. Start promoting the service, instead of waiting for an answer from Bangkok. Give younger people the chance to hop on board for a discount, like a monthly card. Phuket is always on top of promoting when it comes down to elections, car sales, thai boxing, shopping centers, but when it comes down to the safety, and convenience of people, this place is ridiculously limping behind. What a shame.

Posted by Charles on July 24, 2013 22:33


airport buss is like a free bar with beer, if none knows about the free beer, none will come and drink..

start in lowseason and not allowed to advertize . . . they dident really want that guy to succeed . . .

Posted by Somjet on July 24, 2013 22:34


Virtually throwing in the towel after just 6 days? it takes time for any business to get going and mucking around with the schedules is not going to help.

Word of mouth and support will get this thing off the ground. This could be the thin edge of the wedge if allowed to mature. It would be interesting to know why the service can't be publicised in the airport- all other forms of transport are- Aot needs a kick up the backside or are they worried about the exorbitant charges they make to the taxi companies being jeopardised? this service has been planned for months when you factor in all the delays from the initial announcements- it can't be a surprise to them.

As for Phuket authorities- lets remember these are 24 seater buses and as it probably hasn't been been properly publicised in the local Thai press- it's not going to make a significant dent in vehicle numbers. Again- Rome wasn't built in a day.

Posted by Mister Ree on July 24, 2013 22:55

Editor Comment:

Some signs need to appear of authorities actively supporting the bus service. That includes the money-centred AoT. Without an accompanying strategy to get people off motorcycles, bus services on Phuket are doomed to struggle.


So.....the pessimists win again, just as I foretold.

When will you learn Ed? I have 30 years experience in Phuket.

Will you print this? Probably not as it doesn't fit in with your rosy-tinted glasses view of Phuket.

Posted by Sir Burr on July 24, 2013 23:12

Editor Comment:

We have a realistic view of Phuket and the one thing we know for certain is that pessimists, by agreeing with tuk-tuk drivers and taxis drivers (''things will never change'') do more harm than good. Doomsayers, tuk-tuk drivers, taxi drivers . . . all free of ideas and locked into the past, a place that isn't on our hop-on, hop-off bus route. Your 30 years has taught you nothing, and that's sad. For you.


Bus to Patong - is anyone in the local authorities in favour of it? It has not semed so... and island full of indecisive corrupt officials waiting for Bangkok to act - get your act together and shape up to the challenge. The airport bus: after several years the bus to Phuket town is still hidden - and no morning bus to the airport in order to take the many morning flights. So how can one use a service not catering to one's needs!?

Posted by Joakim on July 25, 2013 02:42


This bus service is the best ever happend on Phuket. But as everything else it needs time to be accepted. And of course the bus should run to Karon, Kata, Nai Harn, Rawai and Chalong too. Just one important thing: The bus MUST be on scheduled time.

Posted by Lars on July 25, 2013 03:35


What does this guy expect after just 6 days (unreliable) service?
For goodness sake - the buses need to run ON TIME every time even if they're empty.Only then will the locals start using them.
Its no good him throwing in the towel after just a few days.

Posted by jimbo on July 25, 2013 03:42


So why dont they make a lot of stop offs in patong so people can get close to their hotels? Or let people let hope on, hope off in patong, just like in pattaya?

Posted by remarkable on July 25, 2013 04:01


I do really believe in this project and its potential but after reading the owners thoughts he has me wondering exactly what his expectations are?

The bus should be running on the times stated otherwise if it doesnt it will loose credibility and people wont use it. If he doesnt understand the basic concept of consistency he is in trouble.

Just because no one at the airport may get on doesnt mean the bus will be empty . He could have 20 fares waiting along the way for him.

Posted by Ciaran on July 25, 2013 08:52


advertising is the soul of commerce...

Posted by dave on July 25, 2013 08:59


No support from local authorities, no support from the airport, poor website with no translations, no marketing with travel agents and no partnerships with established companies and no budget to sustain through the first rough year that any business owner should calculate before starting the operation.

We need the airport bus urgently but this is not a business. No plan, no action and already giving up after a couple of days and giving it away to a minivan... nothing more to say.

Posted by Jakub on July 25, 2013 10:27


Look at other airports in Thailand, how big a role does the bus service play there ? You will see it is very few that use a bus service.
What phuket need is real taxis, as in Bangkok, that's the only thing that will solve the transport issue. Waiting for a bus to depart from the airport, having a long travel time with many stops, and then at the end try to figure out how to get to the hotel, will that is not a good start to a Holiday...tourists and I guess most expats want a fast A to B service at a reasonable price. A system as in Suvarnabhumi where taxi drivers receive a start fee in addition to the meter fee would work well. No need to remove the limos, they are required as well, they are already not very expensive when comparing to limo service in Bangkok at comparable distances.

Posted by Sailor on July 25, 2013 13:08


Not the passengers are to blame! When I arrived at the airport some days ago I found it very hard to find out where I could take the airport express. Nobody told me even the information at the airport did not tell us about the new service but informed only about a minivan.But a minivan was not going because of lack of passengers. Therefore I was only offered very expensive taxis. When I asked after the bus tehy only laughed at us. Only by coincidence we found the bus stop. It is strange that the airport information does not inform the passengers. And the taxi drivers, of course, do not inform because they want to make their business. Please tell the tourists, tell the information to infrom the travellers and put some tables on the airport to refer to the buses! Alsoin the hotels in Phuket nobody is informed. When we asked after the time table or the stops nobody knew anything. That is a grave lack of information.

Posted by Zuniga on July 25, 2013 21:10

Editor Comment:

Unless Airport of Thailand is paid to perform a task, they will do nothing. Their outlook is exactly the same as the taxi drivers, except they are even more greedy.


Fully agree about AOT.

The irony is in that AOT is already paid and assigned to do that very task - take care, help and assist it's customers, the passengers.

It's the brilliant strategy of local authorities at work. When they realized the international pressure was too big for them to prevent a bus service from being allowed, they decided to do everything they can to make sure it ends up in financial ruin.

This way they can later say " Well, we gave it a try and it didn't work so no need for it on Phuket "

Never mind they are destroying a man's life in the process.

Posted by ThaiMike on July 26, 2013 00:44


Some comments:
1. Public transportation must be easy to find and see when you leave airport building. And very close too.
2. The service has just started so you need to give some time for visitors to understand that the service is avalible.
3. How can you expect that tourists know anything about the new bus service?
4. The service should be avalible to Karon, Kata, Chalong, Rawai and Phuket town before next "high season".
5. "Hop on hop off". Give it some time. People have to learn about it. And not be afraid doing it? As a tourist I would really like and use this kind of transportation system instead of using motor bike.
6. I wish the contractor good luck. Keep on this fantastic service. This business will grow bigger than you ever thought.

Posted by Lars on July 26, 2013 05:22


AoT paid by taxi m**** to not support bus service. Why doesn't local government operate bus service instead of an individual?

Posted by Steve on July 26, 2013 09:48


@ Steve
Because local government is in the pocket of the local mafiosqo,,, sorry I mean entrepreneurs

Posted by smik on July 26, 2013 11:25


With many business in the island relying only on high season income (which revenues cover low season loss), no wonder this bus is losing money. Now is exactly the worst period to start up a business.

Posted by paul on July 26, 2013 12:00


@ ThaiMike - so true and a great shame.
Doubt the bus operator ever will read this, but just in case.

Make the time schedule and stops visible. Place the stops where needed and keep the schedule, a minibus is better than nothing.

Use the internet for publishing maps and schedules both in Thai and English.

The last part can be finished in a few days for small money, don't understand why it isn't done already.

Posted by Sherlock on July 26, 2013 14:15


This has nothing to do with people not caring.
This is about a flawed business plan that was imposed by people other than the owner.
Foreigners are not using it because there is no info about the service at the airport. If a family of four use it, it's uneconomical compared to an airport taxi.
The cream was inter-beach, which wasn't allowed.
Thais won't use it because there are not enough stops. It should be hop-on, hop-off, like the song-teaws. It never stood a chance (as you were told by many people) as it was designed to fail by powerful people with vested interests in keeping the status quo.

Posted by sir burr on July 26, 2013 14:39


The great fiasco was predictable, considering the fares and the lack of stops on route....
Another lost opportunity for Phuket... Very sad

Posted by JK on July 26, 2013 16:06


There are so many comments here about what could be done and perhaps more interesting why these measures aren't performed.
Please follow up on this subject Ed.

Posted by Sherlock on July 26, 2013 17:29

Editor Comment:

We'd rather look forward, Sherlock, but the bus certainly deserves support from residents and tourists. It would be a travesty if Airports of Thailand in particular allowed the service to fail. They are also the people who have to be made responsible for giving airport arrivals a sensible method for catching a taxi that doesn't involve a mob or a kidnap.


As briefly as possible I would like to say I do enjoy reading The Phuket Wan, much more so than other online/printed newspapers . . . (moderated)

Posted by Michael Spigarolo on July 26, 2013 19:11

Editor Comment:

Thanks again, Michael. But I'm afraid we don't tolerate libellous comments, about ourselves or anyone else.


Absolutely outrageous.(moderated)

Posted by Michael Spigarolo on July 27, 2013 02:01

Editor Comment:

Your one-man campaign is indeed absolutely outrageous. I guess the democratic principle of publishers and editors being free to edit and publish as they see fit is ''news'' to you. If you have nothing to say about the issue (airport buses) don't waste our time. Spend your time starting your own site.


he didnt expect to cover all his capital cost outlay in 6 days did he time and advertising is needed, believe me if you have a good product the money will take care of itself,but not in six days!

Posted by slickmelb on July 27, 2013 02:25


You know, the real problem is that the service shouldn't be a privately run business. Look at the bus services in Bangkok, many of which operate with 10 Baht fares - all subsidised by the Government. Why can't that happen here?

Posted by agogohome on July 28, 2013 22:29


@ Agogohome - probably because a lot of decision makers benefit of the current system, as already suggested in many comments here above.

Posted by Sherlock on July 29, 2013 14:45


Is this thing still going?

Posted by paul on January 27, 2014 10:25

Editor Comment:

We believe so, yes.

Wednesday January 19, 2022
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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