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High arrivals straining Phuket airport

BackAug 16, 2007

Immigration staff shortage upsets flyers

The surge in air traffic from the tourism and property upturn on the Andaman coast is straining Phuket International Airport to the extent that its existing capacity will not be able to meet demand in the next three years.

Air traffic through Phuket International, one of the country's six major airports operated by Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT), is expected to reach five million passengers this year, approaching its annual capacity of 6.5 million.

Based on the current projection of 5-10% annual growth, the airport would be overcrowded in the next three years, says general manager Pornchai Eua-aree.

''There is an urgent need to raise the airport's capacity. The first priority is to beef up immigration processing capacity and then the aircraft parking bays,'' he told the Bangkok Post.

Inadequate immigration services already pose a critical problem, as only half of the 16 counters are manned. This results in long lines and waiting times of as much as half an hour, fuelling complaints from international passengers.

During peak hours, 1,500 passengers per hour pass through the immigration process but the Immigration Bureau can deal with only 900.

AoT is studying how it can help Phuket cope with the surging traffic demand.

Phuket has fully recovered from the December 2004 tsunami, reflected in passenger traffic through the airport which rose 24% in the first half of this year to 2.86 million passengers: 1.75 million domestic travellers (up 17.7% year-on-year) and 1.10 million foreigners (up 35.6%), according to AoT figures.

Total aircraft movements, including takeoffs and landings, rose 36% to 19,993, comprising 11,361 domestic (up 36%) and 8,632 international (up 35.9%).

The Immigration Bureau reported 14.7% growth in total international tourist arrivals through Phuket airport in the first half, to 625,068.

While there was a strong rebound in arrivals from Europe and Oceania _ up 33.54% and 50.74% to 272,667 and 67,003, respectively _ arrivals from East Asia, Phuket's largest market, fell 4.32% to 244,904.

Arrivals from South Asia dropped 19% to 7,948. Those from the Middle East edged up 1.46% to 3,951, while visitors from Africa jumped 7.76% to 5,260. The numbers from the Americas increased 7.17% to 23,335.

AoT, meanwhile, reported that its net profit for the third fiscal quarter to June 30 fell 84.12% to 331 million baht due primarily to the huge jump in expenditures from Suvarnabhumi Airport.

The airport monopoly's operating expenses for the quarter rose 138.42% to 4.37 billion baht, affected by depreciation, amortisation, maintenance and other costs related to operations of Suvarnabhumi, the reopened Don Muang airport and the Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport Hotel.

That eclipsed the 17.96% rise in operating revenue which reached 4.66 billion baht, driven by the 31% rise in aeronautical revenue to 3.22 billion baht and a 3.61% increase in non-aeronautical revenue to 1.43 billion baht, the company said.

Its revenue picture would have been better if AoT, which is 70% state-owned, had been able to recognise 863 million baht in revenues from the King Power Group which is still locked in a legal dispute with AoT over the retail space concession at Suvarnabhumi.

Analysts expect AoT's profit to slip sharply to 2.53 billion baht in the current fiscal year ending Sept 30 from 10.4 billion a year earlier because of the high running costs at Suvarnabhumi.

AOT shares closed yesterday on the Stock Exchange of Thailand at 59 baht, down 1.50 baht, in trade worth 40 million baht.


Source: Bangkok Post by Boonsong Kositchotethana
Thursday August 16, 2007