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No point in increasing Phuket passenger numbers without balance

Spinning Turnstiles Won't Save Phuket

Friday, August 15, 2014
PHUKET: Media reports today suggest that a bid will be made to upgrade Phuket International Airport's capacity from 12.5 million passengers under the present reconstruction to 18 million passengers.

Airports of Thailand, which manages Phuket airport and Thailand's two major Bangkok airports, also wants to lift the capacity at Don Muang, the capital's second facility specialising in budget carriers, to 60 million.

When it comes to Phuket, AoT has usually been far too slow to react to growing numbers of tourists and unable to draw the obvious connection between rapidly-growing passenger numbers and the island's future.

Airports of Thailand's only interest is in profiting from any boom in tourism. The organisation has never shown the slightest interest in balancing the number of arrivals with what the island can sensibly sustain.

The latest idea of boosting Phuket's capacity to handle arrivals and departures from 12.5 million to 18 million should be viewed by the National Council for Peace and Order with the utmost caution.

There is no point in AoT suddenly going from being too slow to react to the island's tourism needs to over-reacting without careful consideration of the needs of the island's residents.

Only if Phuket is improved to the point where the island's beaches and reefs can be protected from the harm caused by mass tourism should an increase in capacity be considered.

Phuket is already suffering from traffic congestion that is approaching the problems of its regional rival, Bali.

If the executives at AoT imagine that tourists wish to go from their homes in cities around the world to be stuck in a traffic jam on a tropical holiday island, they need their heads examined.

The arrival experience at Phuket International Airport has for many years been substandard - especially with Immigration officers in recent times reported to be seeking cash from exhausted travellers to use fast lanes.

Then there are the taxi drivers, waiting . . . and only too keen to take innocent new arrivals to ''agencies'' where the new arrival - in effect, a kidnap victim - is offered new accommodation and tours on which the taxi driver receives hefty commissions.

The AoT needs to clean up its act first, then make sure that its desire to keep the turnstiles at Phuket airport spinning is in keeping with Phuket's real capacity.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


Immigration will be happy if the numbers go up- cha-ching!!

Posted by Mister Ree on August 15, 2014 09:05


Spot on Alan. Could not agree more with you.

Thank you for publishing what I'm sure a large number of visitors and residents think about the abysmal state of Phuket airport arrival experience.

BP reports that the current expansion work at HKT is expected to be delayed by as much as 1 year.

Do you have any information about this ?

Posted by ThaiMike on August 15, 2014 09:10

Editor Comment:

No, we'd prefer to wait for confirmation of that from local spokespeople.


If the executives at AoT imagine that tourists wish to go from their homes in cities around the world to be stuck in a traffic jam on a tropical holiday island, they need their heads examined.


completely agree

larger number of tourists will only detoriate an environment further, that will put again pressure on average spending by tourists as only those very price-sensitive will be will to holiday "very affordably"'regardless of the quality of an environment

Posted by Sue on August 15, 2014 09:16


I don't dispute the key points raised, however, consideration should be given to cost considerations. It is cost effective to build in a capacity cushion now that construction is underway, rather than to attempt 5 years from now. The extra space and infrastructure need not be completely finished, but can be "roughed" in, and separated, e.g space on higher floors. This has been done at other major airports.

Posted by Ryan on August 15, 2014 09:38


Airports have always been difficult to maintain for some reason, even the most prestigious airport in the world London's Heathrow (Look at Qantas and Malaysian their flight numbers to LHR are both 1) the toilets were so bad one man lost his cool and complained when I was there. Phuket's airport toilets are terrible leaking etc, stained carpets in the main areas, very over priced shops in many cases. I hope when the new airport is finished it will be better maintained. I agree that Phuket has some serious issues to deal with, a friend who grew up in Kata and I went for a swim recently at Kata beach and he was upset their was so much floating rubbish. This is a complex subject on how to save Phuket but a start would be to have dustbins along the beach every 50m or so. There are no "official" dustbins that I can see and this is a low priced solution. You want a model airport, Singapore's Changi been there dozens of times and always clean and functional with lovely shops. Perhaps AOT should seek advice from Changi.

Posted by Fiesty Farang on August 15, 2014 10:25


Hey Fiesty Farang,
Could you please give me your source that London's Heathrow is "the most prestigious airport in the world?
Arrived there a year ago and there was nothing that "wowed" me. I have seen better designed and more functional airports in many countries, including China. Just give me the facts Jack......

Posted by nick on August 15, 2014 12:38


@Fiesty Farang:
Heathrow is the world's most prestigious airport according to FF! The flying public voted it at No. 10, preceded by Changi, Incheon, Munich, Hong Kong, Schiphol, Tokyo Haneda, Beijing Capital, Zurich and Vancouver.

Posted by Pete on August 15, 2014 13:18


Good article, and totally agree , Phuket Airport is like something out of the 60's...., and. Is not a good start for any Tourists arriving...

Reminds me very much like the airport in "Nice", that also is very sub standard,

Posted by Robert on August 15, 2014 13:23


- Robert

Actually it's nothing like in the 60's.

At that time air travel was glamorous and the term Jet-Set had just been coined in.

People dressed up in their very best even to just visit an airport and service was luxurious.

It was the era of the B707 and DC-8. It all changed when the B747 was introduced at the end of the decade and air travel started to shift towards mass transport.

Nowadays air travel, especially in the US, is about as glamorous as a tuk-tuk ride.

I agree with you in that the airport building and facilities still have a definite 60's feel to them but now bundled with the famous Phuket rip-off mentality hitting you like a truck the moment you get off the plane.

Posted by ThaiMike on August 15, 2014 15:27


They should take a look at Samui Airport its breath taking beautiful well organized and puts even some western airports to shame this is how a tropical island airport should be done.

Posted by slickmelb on August 15, 2014 16:16


- slickmelb

Well, Samui is a private airport owned by Bangkok airways and AOT has not been allowed to mess it up.

AOT even planned to build a rivaling airport on Samui because of this. Considering how much smaller than Phuket Samui is, one realizes how ridiculous a plan that is.

Honolulu is a very nice, breezy, tropical airport too with plenty of open air.

Posted by ThaiMike on August 15, 2014 18:05


Capacity is one thing, but they really should focus on making HKT airport more modern in general. It feels distinctly "developing country" with lazy locals at the security and weird local copies of Starbucks ans 7eleven. Where are the international brands? I'd like to know who granted the concessions to run the various shops at the airport to sultry locals, the only hint of "modernity" is Burger King and Dunkin Donuts. Then we have the frankly terrible and overpriced coffe shops and supermarkets. Where is Starbucks and 7eleven? And Boots pharmacy?
The security check is THE laziest and least thorough I have EVER seen at any airport, and I have seen many. Never computer out, the staff usually chatting away about money, love, gossiping about the customer in front of them etc etc, while hardly caring about the beeps from the metal detector. It's just totally unprofessional, a terrorists' dream

Posted by christian on August 16, 2014 06:54

Editor Comment:

I disagree strongly, christian. If I had my way, Thailand would reject all the international franchises and retain its culture. The replacement of mom 'n pop stores with 7-Elevens has been the beginning of the end for Thainess. Starbucks? Boots? You've got to be kidding. Why bother leaving home?
On the other hand, airport security has improved considerably, no complaints about that. Last time on an aircraft, I was pinged for a pair of nail scissors that had travelled the world with me for five years. You exaggerate everything - and mostly get it wrong.



But these are not mon n pop stores at all, they are bleak copies of those international chains you deride and are certainly NOT examples of "local culture". I fly out of Phuket domestically and internationally around 50 times per year, last time 2 days ago, and can compare the security checks at Phuket Airport not only with those in other countries but also at other Thai airports. And the security checks for domestic is particularly abysmal and unprofessional, for some reason the checks at international are much more thorough. And I'm not "wrong" about this, any experienced traveller I know say the same. Have you ever had to take your laptop out of your bag at the domestic security check at Phuket? No, you haven't.

Posted by christian on August 16, 2014 09:32

Editor Comment:

Sure I have. In fact, we recently reported that Phuket security staff are being changed with greater regularity to improve standards. I also noted recently added security checks taking place in corridors on the way to board flights, where all bags were being searched by hand. I don't think you're looking too closely, christian.



Ok, but in my many years of flying, 2 days ago like I said earlier, I have never been asked to take my laptop out. Something I ALWAYS without fail are being asked to do at every other airport, be it BKK, Tokyo, HK, or Beijing, both internationalvand domestic. In fact, I fly out again tomorrow, so let's see then if your assertion about airport safetybat HKT is correct

Posted by christian on August 16, 2014 10:33

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