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Suvarnabhumi » Bangkok Airways says fare hike to Koh Samui was unavoidable

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

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Bangkok Airways has defended the airline’s recent fare hike to Koh Samui which local tour operators and tourism organisations have slammed as counter-productive to the resort island’s tourism growth. In a Nov 3 press release picked up in Koh Samui, the airline explained that the Oct 29 hike, its first in four years, was unavoidable.

Bangkok Airways has incurred higher labour and fuel costs every year for the last five years. The relocation this year of its operations from Don Muang to Suvarnabhumi airport also added to expenses, it said.

The fare increase, however, was fiercely opposed by Koh Samui tourism related associations and businesses. They insisted the new ticket price is a turn-off for tourists, which saw Samui lose out to rival destinations such as Phuket and Krabi during the current lucrative high-season tourism period.

The associations aired their complaint about the hike in a letter they earlier sent to Transport Minister Theera Haocharoen. The groups demanded that the fare hike be delayed, claiming that it would erode Koh Samui’s competitive edge.

Senee Phuwasethavorn, chairman of the Koh Samui tourism promotion association, said the fare hike by the only airline flying to the island was too high.

It was reported the tourism associations and businesses may rally at the Bangkok Airways owned Koh Samui airport if the government refuses to step in to solve the problem.

The airline hiked its Koh Samui fare by 20% on Oct 29.

The price of a one-way Y-class economy ticket to Koh Samui from Bangkok, which used to cost 3,550 baht, has gone up by 900 baht. That price is also subject to a fuel surcharge, insurance and airport fees which brings the total fare to 5,085 baht, the airline is selling a very limited number of discount M-class one-way tickets for the same route, according to Mr Senee.

Bangkok Airways, however, defended itself by saying in its statement that only the Y-class tickets charge a full economy-class fare normally reserved for the high season, and that too if a passenger does not make an advance reservation.

Passengers can still choose to buy the M-class ticket which has become only a 100 baht more expensive after the latest fare increases.

The Koh Samui tourism operators have argued that the new fare will likely drive down the number of tourist arrivals to the island as budget travellers were likely to make a switch to Phuket or Krabi as low-cost airlines are also serving those routes.

Mr Senee called for urgent help from the ministry to stem the damage to the local tourism industry from the fare hike, which he estimated would make Samui’s tourism sector lose up to 200 million baht this year.

Sonthaya Kongkijkarn, owner of a tour agency on Koh Samui, said many middle-income tourists are expected to cancel their trips.

The tour companies were told of the new fare only a few days before it went into effect.

Pramote Sapyen, director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Surat Thani office, said the 20% increase was very high and Bangkok Airways should lower the hike.

Bangkok Airways
said the fare increase was approved by the Transport Ministry. Sources alleged the approval came at the end of September when the country was without a government, following the ouster of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

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