DECEMBER passenger flight numbers for Phuket are grim, and worse is probably on the way, even if passengers are not.
Last year the total for December reached 603,459. This year the total is tipped to be 420,000, a drop of 30.40 percent.
That's an extremely gloomy start to the high season.
Flights to Phuket are down 8.67 percent so far on 2007. This means that the eagerly anticipated six millionth flyer to the island won't be making it, at least not in 2008.
Officials who had been hoping to see 6,160,703 passenger flights this year now estimate the total for the year should be 5,666,767 compared to 5,707,365 last year.
Statistics released at a media conference at the airport today chart a turn-around in flights after the first quarter of 2008.
The boost to flight numbers between January and April, sparking anticipation that Phuket would reach six million passengers in the calendar year, has helped to make the downturn seem less significant than it actually has been since July.
Specific causes do not come with the statistics, but it's possible to speculate that the gradual turn-around between March and July was brought on by the effects of global economics, rising oil prices and possibly concern about Thai political unrest.
From August, with the blockade of Phuket airport over three days late that month, the turn-around becomes a nosedive.
November produced 2436 flights to an from the airport compared to 3710 in the previous year.
With the Bangkok airports blockaded over eight days from November 25, Phuket airport became a way out of Thailand for many trapped passengers.
But the special escape flights added by many airlines failed to total as high as the cancelled flights.
The passenger numbers are more alarming. They began a decline in July, falling 15.89 percent. August, and the Phuket blockade, dropped numbers by 28.04 percent, followed by 22.89 percent in September, 14.92 in October, and 34.34 percent in November.
The decline continues, with no comeback in sight. The actual passenger flight figures for December 1-18 (259,065 compared to 334,322 last year) show a decline of 22.51 percent.
The fact that airport officials expect this to increase to 30.40 percent by the end of the month is an indication not to expect any kind of upward move in a hurry.
Thai Airways is adding two flights daily between Phuket and Bangkok from December 26 to January 4, taking the daily total to 10, down on the number last peak season.
The less bad news: an increase in charter flights next year, with Air Italy flying to Phuket from Milan, Corse Air from Copenhagen, Edelweiss Air from Zurich, XL Airways France from Brussels and the Federal State from St Petersberg.
The less good news: seven charter airlines cancelled their flights in late 2008.
Phuket had 36 flights from either special charters or regular charters in 2008, down on 38 the preceding year.
Flights 2007 and 2008
Jan 3531 4155
Feb 3482 3930
Mar 3661 4041
Apr 3366 3477
May 3029 3141
Jun 2924 2817
Jul 3241 2726
Aug 3384 2435
Sep 1693 2308
Oct 3258 2772
Nov 3710 2436
2007 total 38,915 flights
2008 so far 35,543 flights