Coronavirus (Covid-19)PhuketTourism

Local carriers lack confidence in sandbox scheme, hold off resuming Phuket flights

PHOTO: Flickr/Ferry Octavian

Local airlines are in no rush to be part of Phuket’s much-anticipated July 1 re-opening, due to uncertain demand and the strict rules governing the sandbox model. Tassapon Bijleveld from Asia Aviation, the largest shareholder in Thai AirAsia, says strict domestic travel restrictions implemented on red zone provinces as a result of the third wave, have led to plummeting load factors.

This means airlines need to give careful consideration to resuming Phuket routes, including connecting international locations to the southern island. Many international carriers have announced the resumption of flights to Phuket in time for the island’s re-opening. However, according to a Bangkok Post report, Tassapon believes it’s too soon for local carriers to rush into offering international services to Phuket.

“We won’t rush international services in the early stages of the sandbox as tourist demand is unstable, particularly as vaccinated tourists will be forced to roam the island for 14 days. Re-opening is necessary but we have to wait for steady rules and demand.”

Tourism operators on the island are also feeling uncertain, after the government changed the mandatory stay on the island from 7 days to 14. Vaccinated foreigners who do brave all the bureaucracy and touch down in Phuket will also need to agree to 3 Covid-19 tests during the 14-day period, despite the fact that they will have provided a negative test in order to travel to the island.

Tassapon points out that another concern for airlines who do decide to resume flights to Phuket will be that if demand is low, they may need to cancel flights, which risks frustrating passengers and damaging the carrier’s reputation.

According to Nuntaporn Komonsittivate from Thai Lion Air, the rules of the Phuket sandbox are 1 of the main reasons that airlines are hesitant to resume international flights to the island, given the lack of clarity. He says most airlines plan to wait until the last quarter of the year to gauge demand.

Meanwhile, Suksit Suvunditkul from the Deevana Hotels and Resorts chain says most properties have no plans to re-open before September, given that it is low season on Phuket. Only 15 – 20% of the island’s hotels are open and Suksit doesn’t see that changing in the first 3 months of the sandbox scheme.

He believes most European tourists will stay closer to home, favouring places like Spain, which has re-opened to international visitors with far fewer restrictions. He adds that’s the government’s decision to extend the mandatory stay on Phuket from 7 days to 14 means anyone who did want to visit will now wait until that is lifted.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Maya Taylor

A seasoned writer, with a degree in Creative Writing. Over ten years' experience in producing blog and magazine articles, news reports and website content.


  1. Count me out. The racists are on their own. No shots…no respect….no support, or cooperation. Instead of our usual Thailand travels, we’ll wait and splurge ‘ anywhere else’. All the highly paid expats I talk to are in full boycott mode. But how is that different from the Thai HISO who don’t spend a dime on in-country recreation preferring instead to ‘go abroad’? Thai resorts without resident expats are roadkill .

  2. I doubt very much if ‘anyone’ will go there. The whole thing will be a huge embarrassment for the local and national government departments. “Falling on to their own swords”….ha, ha, ha!!!
    So funny to see Thai officials losing “FACE”!!!!

  3. @Mat – it’s not 14 days, it’s 14 nights. That’s 15 days. On top of that you can’t travel to other parts of Thailand without taking a PCR test on day 15. After waiting for results that more like a 17-18 days in Phuket. To a “local” carrier that’s reason to worry.

  4. It’s interesting to see that even Thai hotel owners understand that the decision by the government to extend the mandatory stay in Phuket to 14 days instead of 7 days more or less killed the sandbox model. And that tourists will wait till that new restriction is lifted.

    A Thai who criticizes the government, we don’t hear that often enough.

  5. I too am in the full boycott mode. I was in the full buttock clenching mode in anticipation and excitement due to the reopening, but now with the restrictions, I am in the full boycott mode.

  6. It would take a genuine Leader to change the opening date from July to August at the earliest, September/October to be more realistic. I envisage Phuket been little more than a ghost town throughout July.

  7. Why would tourists come to Phuket and get shot at by local village idiots with their slingshots, let alone be restricted to stay here for min 14 days. It’s monsoon season in Thailand and summer in most parts of Europe, why come here unless you have family? Let Phuket be closed to none residents for the remainder of the year and make sure to inoculate all residents in the interim. Don’t let greed dictate.

  8. “Can we clear this up it’s only 14 days if you want to come to other parts of the kingdom, Or can you still come for a five day holiday and go back to your home country?”

    Yes you can, @Mat, 100%, BUT subject to flight availability which is limited.

    It seems to be an enormous amount of trouble to go to for only five days, particularly when restrictions such as masks and bar closures are enforced, and if you test positive at any time you risk being quarantined for a fortnight.

  9. I think this says it all. If local carriers aren’t buying this idea then it’s either one of two things. They either know that people won’t come; especially Thais flying in to Phuket. Or they know the government is about to announce that transiting BKK will not be allowed, even though previously it said it would. It’s possibly both?

  10. @Michael – perfectly right, 8 days would haved a bit,15 days, dropped surely 70 to, 80% already low demands due all suffering hassles against competition. Be ready for 10000 so called tourists when mostly returnees for July..

  11. So the local private airlines that run on the old fashioned ideas of customer satisfaction and profitability think it’s a bad idea yet thai seem to think it’s the best thing since sliced bread.
    What else does anybody need to know.

  12. Just enquired to get covid cover what a nightmare..just going round in circles so got off the merry go round and picked up a holiday brochure to look for an alternative !!!

  13. I had travel plans for July but am cancelling them because they switched to the 14 days. Waste of time and foolish. I only had to spend a week in Phuket at the most. I would have done that. Best scenario would be to let me go directly to to Udon and I’d stay home with my wife the whole two seeks I am there. I only planned on Phuket because that was the easiest way to get in to Thailand. That is only because I couldn’t go directly to our farm in Udon Thani and Phuket seemed to be the easiest way to spend time with my wife. Forget that! Sure we need to be careful, but the Thai government is going way overboard and still seeing new cases of Covid! All the restrictions are misguided and not fact based. It is not working! All Thailand government is doing is putting a further burden on the businesses and the Thai economy, complaining about no tourists but making it impossible to get into the country! THINK! if Thailand people have more income (tourists) it would be easier to get the items they needed to protect themselves from the virus and keep businesses open. Come on Thai government get up to speed with the rest of the world and do your homework!

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