PHUKET: Citing a lack of demand, Jetstar Asia Airways has ditched its service between Phuket and Singapore, while Tiger Airways has halved its service of the same route.
Only 18 months after introducing a Phuket-Singapore air link, Singapore-based Jetstar Asia announced on March 30 that it has suspended its service of six flights a week. Low demand and a reallocation of resources were revealed as the reasons behind the sudden cancellation.
Meanwhile, the Straits Times reported on March 27 that Tiger Airways has reduced its Singapore-Phuket service from twice daily to once daily, while at the same time beefing up its routes to Vietnam and India.
“Inconsistent demand” was cited in the Straits Times report as being the primary reason for cutting back on the Phuket service.
Jetstar Asia, together with its sister airline Valuair, also shifted its focus to other markets, particularly Indonesia.
Valuair recently launched six weekly flights between Singapore and Medan and increased flights between Singapore and Jakarta from three daily to four daily.
Jetstar Asia introduced daily services to Kuala Lumpur and Macau from Singapore earlier this year and continues to operate its twice-daily Singapore-Bangkok link.
When asked whether Jetstar Asia would ever resume the Phuket-Singapore route, public relations manager Tan Khai Hua told the Gazette, “We are constantly evaluating the deployment of our resources and currently we are focused on other opportunities.
“However, we will review the possibility of resuming the route on a regular basis.”
Rival budget-airline Thai AirAsia is continuing its once-daily Singapore-Phuket flights while full-service carrier SilkAir is operating four daily flights on the same route throughout the low season.
Following Jetstar Asia’s announcement, Thai AirAsia was quick to issue a statement that it was “confident its load factor on the Phuket-Singapore route will reach over 80% in the next three to four months.”
Since opening the route in November, Thai AirAsia’s seat occupancy has risen from more than 60% to more than 70%.
Tassapon Bijleveld, Thai AirAsia CEO, said, “We are strongly confident in the Phuket-Singapore tourism market and expect it to grow stronger.
“A tremendous increase in traffic should come with the airline’s aggressive marketing of the route and the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s support. Already, the route is getting more attention from travelers from Singapore and Phuket.”
SilkAir recently trimmed its flight schedule from 32 flights per week to 28 weekly, but is set to resume the 32-flight schedule in October. Many of its seats are filled with transit passengers from parent company Singapore Airlines’ long-haul flights.
SilkAir’s Phuket branch manager, Hansoo Tan, told the Gazette, “We are enjoying healthy loads and Phuket remains one of our top-performing destinations.
“Outbound sales have shown growth in spite of the excess capacity on the route and as competitors pull out, we expect this trend to continue with more industry support.”
Regarding the outlook for travel between Singapore and Phuket, Mr Tan said, “We have no crystal ball here, but we always have to be prepared for the fact that leisure markets are elastic and are easily impacted by world developments and natural events.
“What makes Phuket special is it that it has shown itself to be an incredibly resilient destination. It is a quality product, easy to package and very accessible,” he said.
“Also, as Asia is growing increasingly affluent, we expect more interregional travel, which Phuket will benefit from,” he said.
“We’re not just looking to grow point-to-point traffic, but are constantly leveraging on the combined Singapore Airlines-SilkAir network of more than 90 destinations,” he added.
Key markets of Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan are important source markets for inbound tourism to Phuket, he said. India is among the emerging markets that SilkAir sees as offering “tremendous potential” for growth, he added.
SilkAir has operated the Singapore-Phuket route for nearly 20 years.
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