The privately owned subsidiary of Strategic Aviation Group Pty Ltd plans to offer two non-stop weekly services each between Melbourne and Brisbane to Phuket.
It will intensify competition on Australia-Phuket routes with the budget carrier Jetstar Airways, V Australia and Pacific Blue, the latter two associated with Virgin Blue International Airlines which in turn are controlled by British businessman Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group.
The launch reflects Strategic’s confidence in robust traffic demand between Victoria and Queensland and Phuket.
Many Australians see Phuket as an alternative to Bali and it is growing in popularity.
The two Phuket-bound services constitute an integral part of the international network expansion for the airline launched in September 2009.
It currently operates services from Perth to Derby and Denpasar, Brisbane to Port Hedland and Denpasar, with Brisbane-Townsville-Denpasar services starting last December.
Strategic will deploy the dual-aisle Airbus A330-200 featuring 30 business-class seats and 243 economy seats. The airline also operates a fleet of smaller Airbus A320-200s, a short to medium-range airliner with 156 seats.
Last year Phuket passenger traffic smashed records with 3.5 million arrivals, a 22% increase over the previous year with new markets Russia and China driving growth.
Charter and direct flight capacity from these countries fast-tracked the expansion.
The 2010 Phuket Hotel Market Update from C9 Hotelworks indicates annual tourism figures recovered soundly from early political anxiety to hit new highs.
Australia, the Middle East and regional destinations also increased their numbers to Phuket with more direct flights, as evidenced by a 21% boost in the number of flights in 2010 compared to the previous year.
Charter flights jumped by 64% last year and made up 25% of international flights during the peak months, or 16% of full-year figures.
Flights originating in Russia increased 128%, which aided the tourist boom.
Source: Bangkok Post