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Phuket Aviation: Jetstar Asia CEO talks regional markets

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Aviation: Jetstar Asia CEO talks regional markets | The Thaiger

PHUKET: Well-positioned to meet swelling demand for one of Phuket’s top three tourism source markets in the post-GFC era, leading low-cost carrier Jetstar celebrated its first direct flight from Melbourne to Phuket on December 14; As reported earlier this month by the Phuket Gazette, story here. The airline also recently announced that it will deploy one of its flagship Dreamliner aircraft to service its existing Sydney to Phuket route. Here, the Gazette’s aviation corespondent Somchai Huasaikul speaks with Jetstar Asia Chief Executive Officer Barathan “Bara” Pasupathi about the new flights, the stress of being an airline CEO, safety issues and more.

What factors led Jetstar to decide to launch the first-ever direct flight linking Melbourne and Phuket?

That’s an easy question, but before I answer you have to understand a little bit about the Jetstar organization. I am the CEO of Jetstar Asia, which operates out of the Singapore hub. The flights coming into Phuket directly from Australia are part of the Jetstar Australia and New Zealand business, but we collaborate as a group, so the question is quite relevant.

It was quite an easy decision to make, as Phuket is naturally one of the favorite destinations among Australians. Whether they are from Melbourne, Perth, Sydney, Brisbane or Darwin areas, they always include trips to Phuket for family holidays, couples, honeymooners, or free independent travellers, so it’s quite a natural choice to offer them direct services so that they don’t have to travel through Bangkok or Singapore.

Phuket is a very popular destination for Singaporean tourists as well. I took my wife and two kids there recently, staying at the Indochine resort. They loved it, especially the elephant rides. Just as an example, at the Singapore Zoo they have elephant rides, but they only last two minutes. In Phuket they last an hour.

Is the Melbourne-Phuket route intended as a long-term, year-round service, or is it just to take advantage of a seasonal demand?

These flights are intended to run permanently, because there is a year-round demand for [flights to] Phuket in Australia. We know this because we have also had to increase the number of flights through our Singapore hub to meet [increased] demand [for Phuket flights] last year, so this is just another option for passengers.

I know you started taking reservations a few months ago. Is it too early to say anything about response to the service? Can you say anything about load factor at this point?

I am generally only hearing good things about this service out of Australia. It has helped that the service was launched at an optimal time, because it is the annual Australian travel season at the moment. The Australians love Bali and they love Phuket, but to many degrees certain destinations closer to Australia are getting congested. I think Phuket is one destination that is huge, has good infrastructure, a good pedigree of hotels, has transport readily available and is generally available. So it ticks all the boxes for maintaining good, year-round demand.

I know there are a lot of Thais that live, work, visit or study in Australia. Do they comprise a significant part of the target market for these flights?

Generally our Bangkok services see a lot of Thais heading to Australia. In terms of the Phuket services, it is predominantly leisure-based. We do see some percentages from the Thai market, but it is mostly serving inbound passengers from the Australian and Singapore markets, or even beyond Singapore and hubbing there to Phuket. We may see some Thais travelling outbound out of Phuket, but it is much thinner than with the metro destinations like Bangkok. I do think that kind of demand can build over time, however.

Thai AirAsia has publicized Phuket International Airport as one of its hubs in recent years. Can you comment on competition with AirAsia, especially in terms of the Phuket market?

Jetstar Asia has its hub in Singapore to serve the Phuket market, but as a group we have 31 branded airlines that we work with, both Jetstar branded airlines and other carriers under code share agreements. We work with these carriers to bring traffic into markets. Some of the partners we work with, on the back of our Qantas relationship, include Lufthansa, Emirates, China Southern, China Eastern and Japan Airlines, to name just a few. Our partner airlines feed our hubs into Phuket, as well as from Phuket into Singapore. Benefits to the customers include not having to travel under separate itineraries and the ability to check baggage all the way through to their final destinations. For Jetstar Asia, Phuket is an important market that is predominantly Asia driven, with a significant component of people travelling there for MICE [meeting, incentive, convention, exhibition] events.

We do not claim Phuket as a hub, but it is an important market for us from Singapore, as well as for Jetstar in Australia. In the future I would not be surprised to see other branded airlines look at direct fights to Phuket through Australian cities like Melbourne and Sydney, which serve the entire outer core of the Australian market, as well as other source markets in third countries, such as Japan.

With so many factors involved, it must be difficult for you to process all of the information that you need to determine the optimal route system. Do you have a computer program that you use? How do you figure it all out?

We have various analytical tools and data sets where we can draw down traffic data at airports in detail. We have to grow in a managed and controlled manner, feeling confident we can fill the aircraft going into a new market so that we have consistent product and schedule delivery for our customers.

We have been in the business for 10 years now, so we have both inhouse tools and third party tools that we use to study markets. Besides demand, there are also other primary considerations to consider before entering a new market. These include such issues as safety and operational performance at the airport, runway specifications and environmental factors.

It seems that before your promotion to CEO most of your experience was in finance and logistics. How do you deal with the underlying stress of being the person that would be held ultimately accountable if there were some sort of disaster?

Well, the aviation industry is a very sophisticated business; it always has been and it is even more sophisticated today with all of the advanced technology… Safety is our primary focus, and we play the safety card in a big way at Qantas and the Jetstar group in general. We exchange information on a daily basis to enhance the safety of the aircraft and training of personnel. We are the only low-cost carrier in this region that has signed up for IOSA [IATA Operational Safety Audit] certification. IOSA is an accredited certification, usually acquired only by full-service carriers, where we put ourselves under the most stringent safety standards and protocols.

We do this because we want to give comfort and communicate our degree of safety to all our passengers, not just our own passengers but also those flying with us under interline, code share agreements. This is a business in which complacency is simply not an option.

— Somchai Huasaikul

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Thailand

Facebook removes “information-influencing” pages linked to Thai military

Maya Taylor

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Facebook removes “information-influencing” pages linked to Thai military | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Facebook

Facebook has confirmed the removal of 185 accounts run by the Thai military and allegedly involved in information-influencing. The social media giant says the accounts were deleted for engaging in what it calls, “coordinated inauthentic behaviour”. In total, 77 accounts, 72 pages, and 18 groups have been removed from the platform, in addition to 18 Instagram accounts. It’s the first time Facebook has taken such action against accounts linked to the Thai government.

The accounts were associated with the Thai military and were targeting people in the southern provinces, Facebook said its regular report on coordinated inauthentic behavior. The south of the country has been the scene of decades-long conflict, with insurgent groups in the majority-Muslim, Malay-speaking region calling for independence. To date, around 7,000 people have died in the ongoing struggle.

Facebook says the deleted accounts were most active last year and used both fake and real accounts to manage pages and groups, both openly military pages and pages that hid their links to the military. Some of the fake profiles pretended to be people from the southern provinces.

The report mentioned a post by the now-removed account named “comprehending the operation” in Thai. The page posted the logo for Amnesty International Thailand and wrote “The NGO never cares about ordinary citizens because they have no role in society. Normal people are not famous. Any case is not big news. They are not worth the investment of foreigners so they will not do anything to help. This is why we don’t see anything from the NGO.”

Facebook removes “information-influencing” pages linked to Thai military | News by The Thaiger

Image overlay translates to “The NGO never cares about ordinary citizens because they have no role nor money.”

On another now-removed account, named “truth about my home Pattani” in Thai, a post said “Muslim leader declares southern border is a peace zone. The southern separatists started a movement by spreading the idea that Thailand is under control by different believers so that people would come and fight for their religion. This was declared that the action clearly violates Islam faith.”

Facebook removes “information-influencing” pages linked to Thai military | News by The Thaiger

Image overlay translates to “Southern border is not Jihad zone.”

When contacted by Reuters, the military had no comment on the removal of the Facebook accounts, with a spokesman saying the organisation does not comment outside of official press conferences.

The head of Cybersecurity Policy at Facebook, Nathaniel Gleicher, has confirmed the reasons behind the platform’s decision.

“This is the first time that we’ve attributed one of our takedowns to links to the Thai military. We found clear links between this operation and the Internal Security Operations Command. We can see that all of these accounts and groups are tied together as part of this operation.”

He adds that the accounts had spent around US$350 on advertising on both Facebook and Instagram. One or more of the pages had about 700,000 followers and at least one of the groups had 100,000 members. Gleicher says the accounts were removed because of their misleading behaviour and not because of the content being posted. The content included support for the military and the monarchy, with allegations of violence and criticism of insurgent groups in the south.

It’s not the first time accounts linked to the Thai military have been removed by a social media platform. In October, Twitter removed 926 accounts it says had links to the army and posted pro-military and pro-government content. The Thai army has denied any involvement with the accounts in question. In November, Twitter also suspended an account posting pro-monarchy content that was found to have links to the palace and to thousands of other accounts posting similar content.

To read the February 2021 Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior Report, click HERE.

SOURCES: Reuters| Facebook

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Central Thailand

Airline executive arrested for failure to pay wages of 150 workers

Maya Taylor

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Airline executive arrested for failure to pay wages of 150 workers | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Wikimedia

An airline executive has been arrested in the central province of Samut Songkhram, after complaints from150 employees that they had not been paid. Chawengsak Noiprasan, who had a court warrant issued against him in October, was taken to Don Muang police station from a property in the Bang Khan Take sub-district. He is a board member of Siam Air Transport.

The airline began operations in October 2014 with services out of Don Mueang to Hong Kong, using 2 Boeing 737-300s. 2 Boeing 737-800s were added to its fleet in late 2015. It expanded by adding Zhengzhou and Guangzhou in China to its network in early 2015. In late 2015, the airline launched flights to Macau and Singapore. In 2017, the airline ceased all operations.

But according to an article in the Bangkok Post, the carrier operates a number of scheduled and charter flights from Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport. The Post reports that, as Chawengsak signs the company’s legal paperwork, all legal matters concerning the airline fall to him.

The Metropolitan Police Bureau says the executive has admitted to ignoring a 30 day notice issued by the labour inspector and ordering the payment of wages to 150 workers. It’s understood he is also wanted in relation to 7 other cases.

The authorities sought Chawengsak’s arrest following complaints from employees who say they haven’t received their wages for 2 months. It’s understood the airline had previously deferred salary payments for over 8 months. 150 workers filed an official complaint with Don Mueang police and also approached media outlets, asking them to pressure the airline into paying the money owed.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Business

Governments & old media versus social media – who will win? | VIDEO

The Thaiger

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Governments & old media versus social media – who will win? | VIDEO | The Thaiger

We look at the recent changes made by the Australian and Indian governments to except control over the world’s biggest social media platforms. India has issued strict new rules for Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms just weeks after the Indian government attempted to pressure Twitter to take down social media accounts it deemed, well, anti social. There is now an open battle between the rise of social media platforms and the governments and ‘old’ media that have been able to maintain a certain level of control over the ‘message’ for the last century. Who will win?

The rules require any social media company to create three roles within India… a “compliance officer” who ensures they follow local laws; a “grievance officer” who addresses complaints from Indian social media users; and a “contact person” who can actually be contacted by lawyers and other aggrieved Indian parties… 24/7.

The democratisation of the news model, with social media as its catalyst, will continue to baffle traditional media and governments who used to enjoy a level of control over what stories get told. The battles of Google and Facebook, with the governments of India and Australia will be followed in plenty of other countries as well.

At the root of all discussions will be the difference between what governments THINK social media is all about and the reality about how quickly the media landscape has changed. You’ll get to read about it first, on a social media platform… probably on the screen you’re watching this news story right now.

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