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Phuket Airport to get VIP terminal for private jets

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MAI KHAO, PHUKET: The new director of Phuket International Airport has confirmed a plan to establish a new terminal for private jets to accommodate “VIP” passengers.

Pratuang Sornkham officially took over as head of Phuket International Airport on May 12, then flew back to Airports of Thailand (AOT) headquarters in Bangkok to receive orders on a wide range of development plans for the airfield, the busiest in Thailand after Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok.

Mr Pratuang’s arrival in Phuket was marked with a “Nice to Meet You” dinner at the Royal Phuket City hotel on May 12.

He said he will continue all of the policies of his predecessor, Wicha Nernlop, who will take up a new position at AOT headquarters in the capital.

In February this year, AOT announced it would invest 5 billion baht in the expansion of the airport in order to bring its capacity up to 11.5 million passengers by the year 2016 – an increase of 77% over current capacity.

Mr Pratuang confirmed a report in an aviation industry newsletter that Hong Kong-based ASA Group has been granted permission by AOT to develop Thailand’s first VIP terminal for private jets at the airport.

“We handle so many private flights into Bangkok and Phuket, so the time is right to cater for our growing client base of VIP visitors who have nowhere in the airport to go once they disembark,” the report quoted ASA representative Simon Wagstaff as saying at the May 14-16 European Business Aviation Convention in Geneva, Switzerland .

Services offered will include aircraft handling, charters, security, in-flight catering and over-flight and landing clearances, it was reported.

Mr Pratuang said the project is appropriate for the airport due to the growing number of businessmen and VIPs flying in to Phuket aboard private jets, but he admitted he knew little about the details and would need to study the project plan.

The new post is a big step up for Mr Pratuang, who spent the last five years as director of Chiang Rai Airport, which only had 5,419 flight movements in 2008 compared to 37,991 in Phuket.

His first task is to repair or replace two escalators inside the main terminal that have been out of order for nearly a year, he said.

He will also prioritize moving the wreckage of One-Two-Go Flight 269, which is still sitting in a field at the end of the runway.

“This ruins an otherwise beautiful sea view and brings back to memory the tragic accident that happened here in 2007,” he said.

Mr Pratuang said he has already been ordered by Transport Minister Sopon Zarum to improve links between the airport and Phuket City, which are a constant source of complaints from tourists.

“I have been ordered to rectify the situation quickly, so I will meet with airport officials and the Phuket governor in order to find a way out of the problem,” he said.

“I will organize the limousine taxis and illegal taxi operations and get them back on track,” he said optimistically.

Aggressive touting for passengers by drivers and other people working the various transport groups at the airport has to stop, he said.

“Phuket Airport has a clear policy that the taxi people must stay in their ticketing booths. We will no longer allow them to go outside their booths and accost people. This is something I plan to monitor very closely,” he said.

Also in the works is a plan to increase by 400 the number of parking spaces for passengers’ cars, he said.

— Kamol Pirat

 

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