Pressured Phuket Air scales back operations

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Flight International online news 11:00GMT: Struggling Thai carrier Phuket Air is to focus is operations on domestic and international short-haul, opting to wet-lease its larger aircraft to foreign airlines.

But the company – under pressure following the revoking of landing permission by some European states this year – has denied earlier suggestions by its owner that it would almost completely withdraw from airline services.

Phuket Air has nine Boeing 747-200s and -300s and was operating these aircraft to destinations in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. But, according to the airline, four are undergoing maintenance, three are wet-leased to an airline in the Middle East, one is parked in Bangkok and another is parked in South Korea.

The carrier says it plans to wet-lease its 747-400s and continue to look at charter work but it has no plans to operate any more international services in its own right.

News reports in Thailand have quoted Phuket Air’s owner and president Vikrom Aisiri as saying he was “throwing in the towel” and would be suspending all the airline’s scheduled and charter services with the exception of the scheduled domestic service from Bangkok to Ranong, where Vikrom has a resort.

He is cited as stating: “It is too troublesome. We have learned our lesson in a very hard way and don’t want to get involved anymore.”

But the airline insists the president later recanted what he had said to the media. A statement said Vikrom was under a lot of pressure and in a “very stressed frame of mind” and was “letting out his frustrations.”

LEITHEN FRANCIS/SINGAPORE