Local airlines in no rush to serve Phuket

Local airlines are still reluctant to join the Phuket sandbox model due to travel regulations and unstable tourism demand.

Local airlines in no rush to serve Phuket
Empty sunbeds are seen around the swimming pool of a hotel which has opened for visitors in Karon, Phuket. (Reuters photo) Local airlines are still reluctant to join the Phuket sandbox model due to travel regulations and unstable tourism demand. Since the third wave of the pandemic hit in April, demand has plunged as many provinces have imposed travel restrictions on people from red zones like Bangkok, said Tassapon Bijleveld, executive chairman of Asia Aviation Plc (AAV), the largest shareholder of Thai AirAsia. Therefore, airlines must be cautious before resuming the route, including international locations that connect 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," he said. The government recently changed entry regulations for inoculated tourists to Phuket, expanding compulsory stays on the island from 7 days to 14 days. Visitors are also required to submit three swab tests even if they show negative results prior to arrival. Mr Tassapon said if airlines choose to operate this route but receive few bookings, it might have to cancel the flight which will annoy tourists who have already booked. At present, Thai AirAsia is using just two aircraft from its fleet of 59. Thai Lion Air said travel regulations are a key concern preventing airlines from flying international routes to Phuket as there is still no clarity on the entry process. The airline will wait until the fourth quarter to see if there is reliable demand .