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Stranded Phuket tourists get strategic in face of flight delays



PHUKET: Passengers grounded by ongoing delays and cancellations by Strategic Airlines are upbeat despite little information from the airline.

Following a forced landing in Kuala Lumpur last week, the airline canceled their immediate Brisbane-Phuket services and today delayed their Melbourne-Phuket flights.

“About 300 [passengers] all up. They did fly one lot of people out to Melbourne, people with children or medical emergencies,” Steve Smith, 48, from Brisbane said.

Passengers who were meant to leave for Brisbane last week were taken to Phuket City Hotel on Friday.

They were taken to the airport again on Saturday but after over eight hours of waiting, they were brought to the Naithonburi Resort [at Nai Thon Beach, near the airport], he added.

With no contact from the airline other than printed notices, some of the stranded have taken it upon themselves to organize a group and find information.

“We were due to depart Phuket to Brisbane on Friday evening [June 17] and the plane was delayed,” Chris O’Shea, 43, from Brisbane, explained to the Phuket Gazette.

“There was a technical problem with the plane. We might get another [flight] with Thai Airways, hopefully,” he said.

After the Brisbane-Phuket flights were called off, passengers booked to depart Brisbane on those and following flights were offered a full refund or the chance to rebook the canceled flight from Brisbane.

“[At first] Our group decided to get a bit upset and demand some information,” Mr O’Shea said.

“Since then we have been contacting the airline and they have been great enough to give us the information about what’s happening and possibly when the plane might be fixed.

“Perhaps we can get onto another flight with another airline,” he added.

He also praised fellow passenger Maria, who was responsible for contacting the airline and keeping her compatriots informed.

“If it wasn’t for her, there might be a lot more upset people. She is looking after everybody.

“I think Strategic should give her a free flight anywhere around the world cause she’s done an amazing job for that airline when they didn’t really step up to the occasion,” Mr O’Shea said.

Maria, who modestly refrained from revealing her family name, did not have much time to comment but explained that she wanted to help because she has airline experience.

“Yesterday we sent 60 people back to Melbourne and I got some messages from them saying thank you very much.

“And today we are going to send 140 Brisbane people and maybe all the Melbourne people. The Brisbane [people] are definitely going,” she told the Gazette.

“Thai Airways flights are arranged by Strategic. They are getting people home,” she added.

Thanks to Maria’s efforts, passengers were more relaxed, forming good relationships with one another and the transportation and accommodation was a positive thing, Mr O’Shea said.

His sentiments were shared by others in the group as well, seeing that a few extra days in Phuket would not change much and that the situation was greatly helped by the lodging provided to them.

“It’s just another experience in life. Nothing to worry about, we’re here, good bed, good food, sooner or later everything will come right,” Frank Evans, 80, from Melbourne, said.

However, Mr Smith did highlight the frustrations as a recurring issue with Strategic Airlines.

“I have traveled by myself but I flew with Strategic Airlines to Phuket three months ago and the same thing happened.

“The first time, we contacted the airline because we never received an apology. We wanted someone to explain it [the circumstances] to us and see if we could trust them enough to fly with them again

“We never heard anything back from the company,” he said.

LTU International Airlines, the check-in service operators for Strategic Airlines in Phuket, were unable to comment, stating that their management were in continuous contact with Strategic Airlines for updates on the situation.

— Janpen Upatising


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