Aviation services company ASA Group has been given the green light by Airports of Thailand to develop the country's first dedicated VIP fixed-base operations at Phuket International airport - a gateway to the country's lucrative tourist region.

The go-ahead marks ASA's first foray into FBO management and paves the way for further expansion in the business aviation services market for the Hong Kong-based company.

"We have been trying to get into Thailand for four years. It is an important growth market," says ASA founder and chief executive Simon Wagstaff. "With around 100 landings a month and 3 million tourists a year, Phuket has more private aircraft movements than Bangkok International airport [where ASA offers handling services]."

The new terminal and business centre is scheduled to open in the next couple of months. "We handle so many private flights into Bangkok and Phuket, so the time is right to cater for our growing client base of VVIP visitors who have nowhere in the airport to go once they disembark."

ASA will offer a range of services including aircraft handling, charter, security, in-flight catering and over-flight and landing clearances.

Last year Airports of Thailand announced that it would inject 5 billion baht ($145 million) into the expansion of Phuket International to boost its capacity to around 11.5 million passengers by 2016 - an increase of 77% over current capacity.

"Asia is a key market for business aviation and there are so many opportunities for ASA," Wagstaff says.

The company is looking at a number of countries where its could buy or manage FBOs including Cambodia and South Korea. It is keen to move into aircraft management and even ownership at a later date.

"We are taking a step-by-step approach to expansion but we are positioned and ready to take advantage of business opportunities when they arise," says Wagstaff.

Source: Flight International