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Competition to come for Koh Samui Airport with future Koh Phangan Airport

The planned opening of a new airport on Koh Phangan Island could help lowering fares to Koh Samui as the airport will be in direct competition with Bangkok Airways’ owned facility

BANGKOK- Tour operators and tourists have alike complaint about high fares that are being charged to fly into Koh Samui, Bangkok Airways almost “private property” as the regional carrier was the first in Thailand to venture into that market. It of course helped to turn Samui into one of Thailand’s most successful tourism stories.

But 2014 could herald a new era. Southern private businessman Somphong Sooksanguan, owner of Kan Air and partial owner of VietJet Air (Vietnam), is looking at spending THB 900 million (US$28.1 million) to build and operate a brand new airport on Koh Phangan, an island in the northern vicinity of Samui. Phangan is also a popular destination, especially for full-moon partygoers.
The airport could open by next year if Mr. Sooksanguan succeeds to attract more partners into a joint venture operation. The Phangan airport would be able to welcome up to 600,000 passengers a year and would be equipped with a  1,100-metre runway, sufficient to welcome aircraft such as the ATR 42. Mr. Sooksanguan own airline, Kan Air, is looking to lease ATR to serve the future route.

Kan Air flights would initially serve Bangkok twice a day. But more flights could be offered as the airport would not be restricted to other carriers. Currently passengers wishing to go to Phangan must either fly to Surat Thani and then take a ferry, a distance of 55 km, or go to Samui 15 km away. If fares from Kan Air are priced at competitive level, it would certainly dent into Bangkok Airways in traffic- on a very small scale from its start as it would only offer 100 seats per day in each direction. But that could be the beginning. According to the Bangkok Post, the island welcomes an estimated 2,000 foreigners per day with some 190 hotels and resorts offering 5,000 rooms.

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Luc Citrinot a French national is a freelance journalist and consultant in tourism and air transport with over 20 years experience. Based in Paris and Bangkok, he works for various travel and air transport trade publications in Europe and Asia.