New Routes Commencing October
Phuket International Airport is set to welcome direct flights from Saudi Arabia starting October, as reported by the airport director, Monchai Tanode. This development follows the normalization of bilateral relations between the two countries in the previous year.
The national flag carrier of Saudi Arabia, Saudia, has been given the honor of operating the first direct flight to the popular tourist destination. This step aims to strengthen the tourism industry and foster stronger ties between both countries.
A Historic Milestone in Diplomatic Relations
The commencement of direct flights can be traced back to February last year when Saudia introduced commercial flights between Saudi Arabia and Suvarnabhumi Airport. This came after a long 30-year period of strained relations between the two nations.
Diplomatic ties had soured due to an unfortunate event in 1989 involving the murder of Saudi diplomats, the disappearance of a Saudi businessman, and the theft of precious gems in Bangkok. A major breakthrough occurred in January last year when Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha visited Riyadh at the invitation of His Royal Highness Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who is also the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence for Saudi Arabia.
Phuket Welcomes Major Gulf Carriers
Phuket has already seen an increase in airline traffic from Gulf carriers such as Etihad and Emirates, which has contributed to the province’s post-pandemic tourism rebound. The island now has direct international flights from countries like Russia, South Korea, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, and India. Most long-haul flights to Phuket typically have layovers in Dubai, as mentioned by Mr. Monchai.
In an attempt to stimulate Phuket’s tourism industry, especially during the low season, the Phuket Tourist Association organized roadshows in Saudi Arabia back in March. The airport’s traffic has been growing steadily ever since the end of the Covid-19 pandemic, with 80% of domestic flights and 70% of international flights returning to pre-pandemic levels.
Expanding Travel Opportunities
With the introduction of direct flights from Saudi Arabia, Phuket is poised to see an increase in tourism, which will have a positive impact on the local economy. The new route not only signifies a milestone in diplomatic relations but also provides seamless travel options for tourists looking to explore the beautiful island destination.