[Phuket News] PHUKET: Pratuang Sornkham, Director of Airports of Thailand (AoT) in Phuket, and boss of the island’s airport, today revealed some of the airport’s plans for dealing with the taxi mess at the airport and other issues by introducing a system like the one used at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok.
Plans for remodelling the taxi and limousine services were supposed to have been announced today (October 10) at a meeting at the airport, but the meeting was postponed.
However, Mr Pratuang did take time to brief members of the press who turned up expecting to hear the plans.
“Vice-Governor Jamroen [Tippayapongtada] will preside over the meeting tomorrow regarding solution to the taxi problem.
But, he explained, “All registered taxis and limousines will be under AoT control.
“We have talked with them and the existing registered taxi drivers and limo drivers have agreed to go along with the new arrangements. Each driver who wants to operate from the airport will have to sign a document.” He did not give details of what will be in the document.
The new system, he said, will be similar to the one operated at Suvarnabhumi Airport. As such, GPS devices will be installed in all the taxis and limousines. “That way drivers will not be able to take passengers ‘out of the way’,” he explained.
“If we get complaints from passengers [about overcharging or other bad behaviour by drivers], we can check immediately and at any time.
“We will have only one service counter [for taxis and limousines], which AoT will control. We will announce later who will manage the counter.”
Mr Pratuang also spoke about the volume of traffic at Phuket Airport and how overcrowding is being tackled until the new terminal opens in February 2014.
He said that this year the maximum number of landings in a day so far this year was 200.
“We have to arrange more [parking] bays. AoT and the air traffic controller’s office will cooperate to organise this matter together. The arrangement of bays needs to be done very carefully.
“An aircraft can circle for around 30 minutes waiting for a landing slot. If it takes much longer than that, then the plane has to go to another airport.
“There was just one case in Phuket this year when this happened. It was a charter flight that could not land on schedule because of a storm.
“The aircraft had to stop at Haad Yai Airport, Krabi Airport and Don Muang Airport before the weather conditions improved so that it could land in Phuket.”
Mr Pratuang also spoke about the Chinese Government imposition of new regulations aimed at reducing so-called zero-baht tours.
“The number of Chinese passengers is higher than any other nationality. I have talked with business people involved with Chinese package tours.
“It will affect [numbers] at first because the businesses have to adjust their packages. But the people I spoke with said that many Chinese would still like to travel to Phuket in the future.”
He said that AoT and the Airport Immigration Police have met and already have plans to provide enough immigration counters and officers to handle the expected rise in passengers in the coming years.
“We will add six more counters for Immigration officers in Arrivals. There is no problem for Departures because passengers do not come all at the same time.”
He revealed that the new terminal to open next year will by no means be the last expansion. “We have plans to build more terminals after we finish that one. We won’t wait until one is finished and then build a new one; we will expand continuously.
“They will be built here – on the site of these offices. We will also knock down the existing employee accommodation. That space can then be used for expansion between 2014 and 2015. By 2017, we expect the airport to be able to handle 15 million passenger movements.”