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Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Thai Airways suspend maiden flights to Samui

Comments on a report in The Samui Express 23 Feb 2007
Originally planned to commence operation on 1st March with two flights a day, Thai Airways have, according to Koh Samui Tourist Promotion Association, decided that the landing costs imposed by Bangkok Airways are too high and have scrapped those plans.

(We have to wonder why at this late stage they have changed their opinion as we are not aware that the landing charges have changed since they first announced the intention of flying here. The usual criticism is that Bangkok Airways airfares are excessive. Koh Samui is not shown as an available destination on the Thai Airways website so it is not possible to compare what they would have charged. We did check a return flight from Surat Thani to Bangkok and the total price was Baht 7,390. An equivalent fare with Bangkok Airways was Baht 8,030 so the additional Baht 640 saves a bus, ferry and bus trip to Surat. The Bangkok Airways promotional fare is only Baht 5,265. A flight from Bangkok to Phuket return was Baht 8,160 and to Krabi was Baht 7,830 so it seems that Bangkok Airways are once again being made the whipping boy for Koh Samui’s problems in not attracting tourists over the recent high season when the bad publicity last year and hotel prices probably had as much to do with that as did the much cheaper general packages to the Andaman Resort areas working hard to regain custom after the tsunami. So once again we are seeing calls for a second airport but there seems to be no evidence that this would produce cheaper fares and unless the hotels are prepared to compete on price with the Andaman coast then the tourists will still not come. There are an ever increasing number of high quality hotels coming to Koh Samui. Four Seasons has just opened, Evason has been here for a while and both Conrad and W have announced plans to be here soon. Others we hear are also planning new five star operations on the island. It is unlikely that guests to these hotels are going to worry too much about a difference of Baht 1,000 on an airfare. So what does Samui want? High end tourists only in which case the existing airport can probably cope or a second airport to attract mass tourism with no guarantee that on its own it will succeed? Can two airports operate at the same time on the island? The original plan for the second airport was parallel to the road from Hua Thanon to Nathon but there now appear to be issues with flight paths and wind shears off the surrounding hills. Also with the present interim government, do they have the will at this time to approve such a project? The land acquisition process itself could take years as compulsory purchase orders will need to go through the Courts and then the funds will have to be available to buy the land and build the airport by which time we will no doubt have a different government to that now in power or in power after the next election – so who knows where it could go and if Suvarnabhuni Airport in Bangkok can be used as an example we probably have another 45 years to wait anyway! )

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