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Failed flights to Brisbane, Melbourne may cost Phuket Australian fans

Australia Flights: Can They Be Saved?

Monday, February 27, 2012
PHUKET: Will two vital flight route links to Australia's big east coast cities of Melbourne and Brisbane be saved for future Phuket?

Phuket resort managers are pondering that issue because many of the 100,000 tickets purchased before Air Australia folded would have been for resort bookings on Phuket or close to Phuket.

''It will have a knock-on effect long after the last of the stranded passengers leave because bookings are sometimes made far in advance,'' one resort manager said today. ''We've had a wedding party for Phuket in April cancel.

''They've lost theire money and there's no way they can afford to pay for the trip all over again.''

The failure this year of Air Australia and the Russian Lanta-Tour brand stranded thousands in Thailand and on Phuket. The closures will scare thousands more into rethinking their plans.

Consumer protection is clearly required, especially as more Russian tour companies are considered to be operating close to the brink.

The Russian and Australian markets are both top-three for Phuket along with China, so a bout of turbulence reverberates through the whole Phuket tourism industry.

The biggest question of all, though, is whether the Air Australia routes between Phuket and Melbourne and Phuket and Brisbane will quickly find another taker.

When V Australia opened up the direct flights to those two capitals, hundreds more Australians took advantage of the direct flights and headed for Phuket instead of Bali.

When V Australia moved on because the size and quality of its aircraft were more suited to long-haul, Strategic - which later changed its name to Air Australia - took over.

The widely-reported stranding of passengers on Phuket probably spurred the name change - and highlighted the biggest problem for Air Australia and other carriers like it.

With a small fleet and no ability to adapt in an emergency, small carriers are at the mercy of their aircraft's engines. If there are problems, delays and possible strandings become inevitable.

Efficiencies of scale help the bigger brands to negotiate lower prices, too. This is one of the reasons why Air Australia personnel were hard to find on Phuket during last year's stranding and this year's failure - there aren't any.

The cost savings in not having personnel in Phuket and Bali (and probably Honolulu) enabled Air Australia to fly lean - but not for long. Just three months in operation, November to February, marks Air Australia as a flight of fantasy.

The question is, however, whether the Phuket-Brisbane and Phuket-Melbourne routes were plusses or minuses. If the routes were attracting good numbers, then they could be the gems among the Air Australia rubble.

With the pressure on the airline industry generally as intense as it gets right now, it may be that saviors are hard to find. But if those routes are not rescued, then there will be a shift in the Australian market, away from Phuket to other easily accessible destinations.

Jetstar mostly flies to Sydney or offers a transit through Singapore to other parts of Australia.

The good news is that the precious slots at Phuket International airport will remain open and not be filled immediately.

But then, they could fall to a flier offering direct flights from China or elsewhere.

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" When V Australia opened up the direct flights to those two capitals, hundreds more Australians took advantage of the direct flights and headed for Phuket instead of Bali."

Correct. We were two of them except we departed on a Phuket return. It offered an 8 hr flight direct as against a Jetstar to Sydney, features of which were cramped seats, sh1t food, change terminals, long wait, missing baggage for a total 16hrs. to Bne. The price from memory was about the same.

If V Australia were to realise that it is not so much about costs but the convenience factor together with good service and reliability that will garner bookings if they were to renew their service. Bogan Airways has bit the dust big time, the market is again open.

Even Gold Coasters have an unnecessary delay in KL if using Air Asia to say nothing of the physiotherapy needed after being folded up for so long in transit.

We Brisbane-ites can only live in hope.

Posted by innocent bystander on February 27, 2012 13:44


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