Looks Pretty Good Compared to Some Countries
Okay, from time to time, we all have complaints about airlines, airports and all things aviation. This is usually based on our own experiences, a bad in-flight meal, the galley running out of booze, having to climb over someone to get to the toilet or rude and indifferent staff.
But stop complaining. It could be worse. You could be relying on service from a national carrier operated by any of the following countries: North Korea, Sudan, Afghanistan, Cambodia or Rwanda. All of these airlines are banned from flying into the European Union because of doubts about their safety.
Then throw in carriers from Angola, Benin, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan (a landlocked country in Central Asia), Sierra Leone, Sao Tome and Principe, Swaziland and Zambia to name but a few. In fact, a total of 228 companies are banned. This makes for a pretty sorry picture. Maybe Thailand isn’t so bad after all.
Of course almost all of these countries are in Africa and none, apart from Siem Reap Airways International from Cambodia, fly into Thailand and then only into Bangkok and not Phuket. Also, of course, the European Union ban is a bit academic for most of the airlines affected since they don’t have routes into Europe anyway.
What the ban does underscore, however, is how important safety considerations are to the airline industry. This year, three new countries were added to the list of banned airlines – the African countries of Djibouti, the Republic of Congo and Sao Tome and Principe.
Thailand is not entirely without a history of such bans either. At one stage a couple of Thai airlines were grounded because of safety concerns. However, Asia, with the exception of Cambodia and some airlines in Indonesia, has been improving its record compared to Africa, the former Soviet states and some Middle Eastern countries.
At least the countries mentioned here have airports. Imagine living in a country where there is no airport! Well there are five of them. Leading the way is the Vatican City, which is plum in the centre of Rome. Then there’s Monaco, but it does, however, have a heliport for all those billionaires to drop by. Liechtenstein, likewise. Its nearest airport is Zurich in Switzerland. Andorra near Spain is the largest country not to have a facility. Its nearest airports are Girona in Barcelona and Toulouse in France. Finally there’s tiny San Marino in Italy, which also boasts only a heliport.
So it just goes to show that you can run a country successfully without an airport. Of course, Phuket’s tourist industry would be severely constrained without our airport and to be fair it’s a facility which is improving customer service and facilities virtually every month. We’re getting a VIP air terminal, a single-engine aircraft strip and, yes, you guessed it, we now have a helipad (not a heliport) about three to four kilometres south of the airport. Of course Phuket also has its own mobile helipads, those on the larger super yachts that moor off places like the Amanpuri Resort in Surin during the high season.
Finally, Phuket Airport is looking to welcome its sixth millionth visitor. It just missed out last year because of the airport closure and other political unrest in Thailand.
However, Phuket Airport has a long way to go before it matches the busiest airport in Asia, Beijing Capital International, with a throughput of almost 37 million people from January to July this year.
Suvarnabhumi in Bangkok was the busiest airport in the region, handling 22 million passengers over the same period. This, in fact represented a drop of 9.4% over the same period last year. This was the biggest drop ‘year-on-year’ for any international facility in Asia. Suvarnabhumi has certainly had more than it’s fair share of problems. Let’s hope that there are no more airport occupations, as any interruptions in service impact adversely on Phuket – the vast majority of visitors to the island still pass through Bangkok en route.
Alastair Carthew, a Phuket based writer and communications advisor.
This post was written by HKT Homes on January 16, 2010