Bangkok Airways, the country's largest privately owned carrier, plans to turn Samui Airport into a second international air hub after Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport in the next one or two years. The airline would launch more direct international flights for medium-haul routes through the small resort airport. The plan falls under Bangkok Airways' growth plan and the mandate of the Samui Property Fund.
Also in the pipeline are plans to offer direct flights from Samui to Dubai, Shanghai, Bali, and Kuala Lumpur. The airline already has scheduled flights to Hong Kong and Singapore. Being instrumental to the launch of the direct international flights from Samui is the arrival this year of additional A319s boost capacity for the longer flights, said Bangkok Airways vice-president M.L. Nandhika Varavan. The first of the six A319s that Bangkok Airways has ordered is already operating, while three more are due for delivery this year with the rest gradually joining the fleet until Nov 2009.
''The definite launching dates of these international flights has yet to be decided, but are unlikely in the very near future,'' M.L. Nandhika said. That depends on the four-year marketing plan Bangkok Airways is finalising, she added. The bulk of Bangkok Airways' flights originate from Suvarnabhumi and a substantial number of its passenger traffic is between Bangkok and Samui. Bangkok Airways carries about 600,000 passengers a year through Samui Airport. With a limited number of international flights, Samui Airport is largely classified as a domestic airport, flying mostly foreign tourists from Bangkok to Samui.Aside from Bangkok Airways' own international-bound services, Samui serves a handful of international flights from Malaysia by the low cost carrier Firefly and Selangor-based Berjaya Air.
Part of the problem is environmental restrictions on the number of flights and operating hours, with a total of 36 flights per day currently allowed. But Bangkok Airways is eager to make Samui Airport its second traffic base to support the airport's new 500-million-baht passenger terminal that was completed early last year. The new terminal is four times larger than the old one and can handle 16,000 passengers a day. It is intended to cope with surging foreign tourist traffic to the island over the next 10-years. Meanwhile, air traffic through Samui last year slowed from the previous year. According to the Department of Civil Aviation, total passenger throughput dropped 15.71% to 1.18 million from 1.40 million in the previous year while combined aircraft movements also fell 15.87% to 15,783.