Phuket is a top choice for discerning international travellers in search of a luxurious tropical holiday. Travel to the island once required an overnight bus or train journey from Bangkok to Southern Thailand, but nowadays a plethora of airlines offers affordable domestic transfers, not to mention direct international connections, which means visitor arrival numbers are soaring. In fact, Phuket International Airport is currently undergoing extensive expansion work to accommodate the ever growing number of passengers flying in.
Based on the number of passengers that touch down at Phuket Airport every year, it is now the third busiest gateway in the Kingdom following Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang Airports. In 2013, Phuket Airport recorded 11.3 million visitor arrivals. The airport comprises two terminals: Terminal 1 is used for international flights and Terminal 2 is used for domestic transfers. In February 2014, Terminal X opened for private charter flights and all three facilities will become significantly more spacious and efficient post-expansion.
Flying to Phuket
Visitors flying to Phuket by plane are treated to stunning aerial views of the island as they track down to the airport, so it’s worth grabbing a window seat if possible. Planes flying in from the east also take in spectacular views of Phang Nga Bay, which is home to dramatic craggy limestone karsts that rise out of the placid blue ocean. Views to the west overlook Mai Khao Beach, which translates to “White Wood” in Thai thanks to its soft white sand.
For visitors arriving during peak season which runs from November to April, Phuket Airport can be extremely busy. If several flights land in quick succession, visitors often face lines at immigration. However, once you have passed through the immigration lines it’s only a short walk to the luggage carousel. There are currently just two luggage claim areas – one for domestic arrivals, and another for international fights, (but this may change when the new facilities open). Visitors that have already passed through immigration in Bangkok can enter through the domestic terminal but their luggage will still arrive on the international carousel.
Departing from Phuket
Despite the fact that Phuket Airport has two terminals, the entrance for all departures is currently in the same place and there's a short walk and escalator from there to the international check-in counters. There are several small restaurants, bars and coffee shops for visitors that want to take the edge of the end of their trip with a quick drink before their plane journey. The Thai Airways restaurant on the third floor of the terminal also serves good food. Visitors who want to pick up any last minute souvenirs can browse the modest duty free store and souvenir shops in the departure lounge, but Thailand’s best duty free shopping options can still be found at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok.
Due to increasing demand from airlines catering to the growing number of tourists visiting Phuket, the airline is undergoing an extensive transformation which is scheduled for completion in February 2016. The project was given a budget of THB5.7 billion (US$ 1.6 billion) and the extensions will focus on enlarging the airport’s international terminal and increasing overall capacity to 12.5 million passengers per year. Plans also include refurbishment of the existing terminals and the construction of a new car park and air cargo office. It has also been suggested that a second international terminal may be constructed once the current upgrades are completed.
Posted by Wayne Hue