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Thai Carrier Grounded at Incheon Int'l Airport
Over 5,000 Travelers' Plans Disrupted during Holidays
By Rowena dela Rosa Yoon
Associate Editor & Australian Correspondent
An airliner of Phuket Air

Thailand's Phuket Air flight 9R602, which was originally scheduled to leave Seoul on Aug. 10, 2005 for Bangkok, has been grounded due to lack of departure clearance from the Incheon International Airport.

The plane was reported to have been seized by the aviation authorities due to the carrier's default in paying ground maintenance fees, catering service, and fuel charges.

Phuket Airlines had earlier announced its decision to discontinue its regular air service on Incheon-Bangkok route effective Aug.10. The action came two months after it took unilateral decision to cancel flights it planned to operate between Incheon and Phuket days before the official launch of the service, thus disrupting more than 5,000 travelers' plans during the summer holiday season.

Phuket Air is reportedly obliged pay back over dues: 137 million won in fuel charges, 57 million won in airport departure and arrival charges, 6.2 million won in ground handling charges, 16.4 million won in catering service charges, 20 million won in hotel charges, and 1 million won miscellaneous expenses to the related business establishments in Korea before its withdrawal from Korea.

Thai air carrier's Korea GSA, has notified Korean tour operators such as Mode Tour, OK Tour, and Lotte Travel of its decision to discontinue the Incheon-Bangkok service asking for their cooperation of rescheduling tour programs and prepaid airfare settlement method.

Phuket Airlines officials argued that those travelers who have reserved tickets on the cancelled flights would not suffer any inconveniences, asserting that their company will arrange for them to travel to Bangkok on different airlines such as Thai International.

The Bangkok-based airline was reported to have discontinued the Incheon and Bangkok air service for transportation of Japanese self-defense forces.

Thailand was a favored destination for South Korean holidaymakers but the number of visitors there has tumbled since late December when its beaches were hit by the massive tsunami that claimed thousands of lives in Thailand alone.

As a result of Phuket Airlines' unilateral decision to cancel scheduled flights, tour products for Thailand, which used to be framed for five-days with three overnights or six-days with four overnights- should be changed into patterns of four days with two overnights or seven days with five overnights, which local tour operators maintained, are not "fit for Korean clients."

In the meantime, Thailand-based Phuket Airlines owes the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) and Bangladesh Biman of equipment rent for using landing charge and other taxes, it was learned.

Sources alleged that attempts were being made to minimize the issue through under the table dealings with a senior policy maker in the government.

CAAB and Biman Bangladesh Airlines sources said they do not know why the Phuket Airlines Authority was delaying payment of the outstanding bills.

Sources said "The amount grew bulky, accumulating unpaid aircraft and cargo handling and miscellaneous charges at Chittagong Shah Amanat International Airport."

Phuket Airlines has suspended its air operation in Bangladesh from June 26 this year without paying the dues and is likely to restart its operation in Chittagong within the next four months, sources said.

Due to non-payment by the local general sales agent (GSA), the Phuket Airlines Authority had suspended their operation in Bangladesh, sources said.

About 5,000 tickets had been sold before suspending the air operation, sources said adding, clients were suffering because the money spent to buy the tickets were not being paid back. General Manager of Bangladesh Phuket Airlines, Farhad Hossain told The New Nation that dues were operational.

Sources from the Biman Bangladesh Airlines said that the outstanding amount that the Phuket Airlines owed the national flag carrier stood at Taka four million when it closed down its operation on June 26 this year.

It is learnt that the airline had to close down its operation after suffering a financial loss amounting to US dollars 1.4 million only from the extended route in Chittagong.

Despite the fact that there are many sets of rules for laying off or closing any organization but the Phuket Airlines did not comply with any of those rules when it closed operation, sources said.

Phuket airlines started its operation in Chittagong in November 2002

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Rowena dela Rosa Yoon serves as an Associate Editor & Australian Correspondent for the Seoul Times. She is a communications specialist with extensive professional experience in journalism, public relations, and corporate communications. She wrote for Manila Bulletin and Korea Herald. She has a MA degree in Communications and Media Studies from Monash University (Australia), a postgraduate degree in Comparative Literature from University of the Philippines, a BS degree in Journalism from Lyceum of the Philippines, and a Diploma of Information Technology from Victoria University (Australia). She is a current member of the Melbourne Press Club.






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