Koh Phangan Airport is Still On

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In 2015 work on Koh Phangan Airport came to a halt. Not only was the project coming in over budget but also legal difficulties were preventing the vital transport hub from being completed. Throughout 2016 it looked like Koh Phangan Airport was dead in the water. The latest news released by Kan Air to the Bangkok Post has revived hopes that the airport will eventually be completed and the dream of being able to fly directly to Koh Phangan is now back on.

On 5th September the Bangkok Post published an online article entitled, ‘Koh Phangan Airport Developer Seeks Loans‘. The lead is about the search for an injection of cash to complete Koh Phangan Airport. Kan Air estimate they need 1.5 Billion more Thai Baht to get the job done.

Kannithi Aviation that runs Kan Air has told the newspaper that ideally they want a soft loan from foreign financiers. The distinction between foreign and Thai finance is to do with the lower interest rates charged by non- Thai financiers.

The President of Kannithi Aviation Somphong Sooksanguan stated that he preferred loans to raise capital rather than a joint venture. The article states that this will speed up completion of the airport. However, no evidence is provided as to why joint ventures lead to delays.

The Bangkok Post must have forgotten that it had earlier reported that the Environmental Impact Assessment for the airport had been waived. Now it claims that this is a potential stumbling block for the project. Besides can you start clearing the land and grading it before the impact assessment has given the all clear?

A new bit of information is that Kannithi Air plans to open up the airport not just for Kan Air flights but also for other airlines. This means the possibility of more scheduled flights and possibly scheduled flights to destinations other than just Bangkok.

Original estimates for costs to build Koh Phangan Airport were 900 million Thai Baht. The project has to date racked up costs of close to 2 billion Thai Baht.

Kan Air Restarts U-tapao Services

U-tapao Airport

Kan Air runs a number of flight services from the naval airbase of U-tapao in Rayong Province. These were temporarily suspended for legal reasons. These obstacles have been overcome and full service is soon set to resume. This is all part of the over-arching strategy of Kan Air to consolidate and increase it network of services and fleet of aircraft in advance of the opening of Koh Phangan airport.

The budget airline secured permission to run a number of flight services from U-tapao from the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA). On April 10th, 2015 the airline started running services between U-tapao and Chiang Mai, Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani, Khon Kaen and Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport.

Permission was granted for chartered flights. Tickets were for wholesale purchase only. On June 15th this permission was revoked by the DCA when it was discovered that the company had also sold tickets for these routes through retail outlets, thus breaching the rules for chartered flights.

It is a credit to the DCA that such irregularities were soon identified and then resolved. On July 20th permission was given to Kan Air to continue flights from U-tapao Airport as scheduled rather than chartered flights.

As a result Kan Air is now allowed to offer scheduled flights from U-tapao to Phuket, Krabi, Chiang Mai, Udon Thani and Hat Yai. This is a major commercial step forward for Kan Air. Not only is their portfolio of scheduled services increased but it also includes important tourist hubs such as Phuket, Krabi and Chiang Mai. There is also the option to take up the route between Don Mueang to Phrae.

The Phrae route is due to start later this year. Capacity has been made available for this scheduled route by reducing the Dong Mueang to Mae Sot service from 3 flights a week to just two.

Somphong Sooksanguan, president of Kannithi Aviation Co. has indicated that the company are looking to add to its aircraft fleet. They want to add two single aisle jets as well as Airbus 320 to their growing fleet.

The company have managed the situation well. New routes are online and the commercial basis of the company looks secure. In such a context the future for Koh Phangan Airport also looks secure. The expanding route itinerary allows financial capacity for completing Koh Phangan Airport as well as sourcing suitable airplanes to make the route between Koh Phangan east coast and Bangkok’s Don Muang Airport.

The U-Tapao Airport is of importance as a key travel hub for the area. It provides capacity for those going to Phuket as well as Pattaya.  The pleasure city of Pattaya is only 40 km away. There are mini bus services linking the airport with major tourist destinations.

Kan Air Changes Strategy

Kan Air Splits with ThaiViet JetAir and Opens up 4 New Routes

U Tapao International Airport
U Tapao International Airport

Kan Air announced a new strategy this month in the wake of splitting with Thai VietJet Air (TVJA). It plans to focus on building a domestic aviation business. Already it has started 4 new routes from the airport at U-Tapao, in Rayong

Until recently Kan Air was in partnership with TVJA to develop international air routes across South East Asia. Mr Somphong, president of Kannithi Aviation Co, operator of Kan Air, told the Bangkok Post differences in management styles led Kan Air to offloading its 51% shares in the budget carrier which has been plagued with delays in starting up.

This split has led to a change in business strategy for Kan Air. They are now focussing on opening up new air routes in Thailand. As well as using Chiang Mai Airport they are now also using U-Tapao. It is a navy-owned airstrip in Rayong Province.

Now that Kan Air has leased 2 more planes (ATR 72-500 Turbo Props) they are able to operate flights from U-Tapao every other day to Chiang Mai, Khon Kaen, Ubon Ratchathani and Udon Thani. They are expecting the flat one way fare to be 990 Thai Baht.

The plan is to ‘think outside the box’. This means offering internal flights that don’t involve the two big airports in Bangkok – Don Mueng and Suvarnabhumi. It is a smart move as much of the domestic flight market goes through these two busy Bangkok airports. Those low-cost carriers that can join up the dots throughout the rest of the country will benefit as the Thai economy grows.

The 2 leased planes were originally thought to be ear-marked for Koh Phangan Airport. They might still be, but until the airport is completed, it makes business sense to maximise revenue from existing assets.

Source: http://www.bangkokpost.com/business/tourism/498501/sky-the-limit-for-kan-air

Aerial View of Koh Phangan Airport 2015

New view of airport progress

Florenz Kittel, who has a business taking aerial videos, visited the site of Koh Phangan Airport in January 2015 to fly his drone over the site. He has kindly put his video footage on YouTube (www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZtDDlhsc64).

You can see the footage above. It clearly shows the area that has been cleared for the airport. If you look at the render published by Kan Air below you get an idea of how the airport will be laid out. Judging by the size of the trucks and builders’ huts on the ground, the area cleared clearly looks large enough to hold a runway as well as airport buildings.

The video clip also shows that alot of work has been done levelling the ground to make it suitable for building. As yet, it looks like little concrete has been poured. This obviously indicates that the airport completion is clearly at least 12 months away, if not longer.

The comments to the original YouTube video are mostly cynical about the new airport. On the other hand, the video does show that work is on-going, and that the airport is feasible as an engineering project.
Koh Phangan Airport

Kan Air Gets First ATR72-500

First published December 2014

Kan Air Takes Possession of First ATR 72-500 Propeller Airplane

ATR 72-500
In December 2014 Kan Air started using its first ATR 72-500 propeller airplane. Its maiden flight was on December 5th. It flew from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son. On the 7th December it then flew on to Khon Kaen, and on 10th December it made the last leg of its journey to Udon Ratchathani.

The ATR is the world’ bestselling commercial turbo prop plane. It is an Italian-French made plane. Kan Air secured the plane on lease from Singapore’s Nordic Aviation Capital Pte company. The same company will lease a further plane in the next few months. The plan is to be used to set up daily flights in from Chiang Mai to Hua Hin, Chiang Mai to Nakhon Ratchasima and Bangkok to Mae Sod. The introductory price for one-way flights will be 990 Thai Baht.

It is expected the same type of plane will used for the first flights from Koh Phangan Airport to Bangkok. If Kan Air can deliver the same service and levels of pricing as they are achieving on their established routes it is to be expected that the Koh Phangan to Bangkok route will be a big hit with both tourists and business people to the popular island destination.

Work continues on Koh Phangan Airport. While Kan Air has not managed to complete the airport for the December 2014 peak season in Koh Phangan, it is expected that the project will be finished in 2015.

Source – Bangkok Post 18th December

Flights to Hua Hin and Ubon Ratchathani

Two new scheduled flights announced by Kan Air

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Kan Air, who are currently building Koh Phangan Airport, have recently added two new services to its growing list of scheduled flights. It is a clear statement of intent by the company that they wish to become a major player in the lucrative internal flight market in Thailand.

The new routes are both from Chiang Mai where the airline is based. One service is to Ubon Ratchathani in Northeast Thailand. This service will be on Friday and Sunday. Flights will leave Chiang Mai at 1350 and arrive at 1520. The reverse leg will leave at 1600 and arrive at 1730.

The other route is between Chiang Mai and Hua Hin in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province. Flights are also on Friday and Sunday. The flight to Hua Hin departs at 0900 and arrives at 1030. The return flight leaves at 1100 and arrives at 1230.

Both routes will be served by the company’s Hawker Beechcraft Premier 1 jet. It can carry 6 passengers. Kan Air announced fares will start at 2,900 Thai Baht inclusive of all taxes for a one-way fare to either Ubon Ratchathani or Hua Hin. Flights will start on August 15th, 2014.

The two new scheduled flights will join existing flights from Chiang Mai to Pai, Mae Hong Son, Nan, Phitsanulok and Khon Kaen.

It is hoped that these new routes prove lucrative for Kan Air and that they will give the company the financial boost needed to complete Koh Phangan Airport. The airport is the biggest aviation project the company has so far entered into.

Airplane Update

First published July, 2014

Kan Air reverts back to original plan

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The Bangkok Post seems to periodically re-post the same story of Koh Phangan getting a new airport without referencing its earlier posts on the same news item. If they did then they would have noted that the most recent statement regarding the type of aircraft to be used has changed again.

The first announcements claimed that ATR 72 Turboprops would be used. Then it was claimed that the airplanes would be 4 leased Bombardier Q400 airplanes. This idea has been abandoned and the plan is now again to use 2 ATR 72 Turbo props according to a post on the Bangkok Post dated 1st July, 2014.

So far the airport has cost Kan Air 500 million Thai Baht. Although no concrete has yet been laid the airport terminal has been ‘started’. The Bangkok Post claims that the work is 70% completed. The estimated total bill for the airport construction is to be 1 billion Baht.

Finally, the latest claim for a completion date is ‘year-end’. This would be ideal to coincide with the peak season on Koh Phangan.

Update April 2014

Work Fully Under Way

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Airport construction is now fully under way. The land is being levelled in preparation of the laying of the runway and laying of foundations for the terminal buildings. The majority of the work is at the moment being carried out by a local contractor from Thong Nai Pan Yai, whose invaluable experience creating the roads on the island is being put to good use on this project.

The large flat area you can see in the third picture marks the far end of the runway, and beside which will sit the aircraft hangar. The rocky area shown in the second photograph is where the terminal buildings will start, continuing to the area to the right of the picture. The runway will go along the back of this area.

Completion is still some way off, but excitement about the new airport is growing on Koh Phangan. Now that the project is becoming more a reality the imminent changes to the island economy are beginning to sink in. There is firm talk of one or more major new luxury resorts on the East Coast of Koh Phangan, and not in Thong Nai Pan for a change. The most likely candidates are Bottle Beach and Haad Yao (East) both within a 10 minute drive of the new airport.

Contracts are also under negotiation for several new villa projects in Thong Nai Pan, the main town on the East Coast. Even before it is built the airport is leading to local economic expansion, and this is set to continue with Koh Phangan fast on track to compete with neighbouring island Koh Samui both in terms of facilities and tourist numbers.

New Don Muang Airport

Published first May, 2014

Re-opened Bangkok Airport could do better

Don Muang Airport
Don Muang Airport

Kan Air proposes to start daily scheduled flights from Koh Phangan Airport to Don Muang Airport in Bangkok. This airport was closed when Suvarnabhumi was opened but re-opened a few years ago to cope with the congestion at the new airport.

Don Muang Airport (also spelt ‘Don Mueng’) was replaced by Suvarnabhumi because it was too small to deal with the rising numbers of tourists arriving in Thailand. The new airport was bigger and also closer to the center of Bangkok.

Although the walk down to passport control seems long and the food prices expensive, Suvarnabhumi for all its faults is a good international airport. It has a large capacity, it processes people into Thailand quickly, and best of all, it has a rail link connecting it with downtown Bangkok.

In contrast the newly opened Don Muang airport that currently hosts several major airlines such as Nok Air, Solar Air and Air Asia does not have the advantages of Suvarnabhumi. It doesn’t have a convenient rail link (there is one but not close and often the trains are 90 minutes apart), and it has less amenities and facilities. There is none of the clever zonal air-con or the same large selection of shops and restaurants.

Additionally the main food court is before passport control (when leaving the airport). A basic noodle dish costs 185 Thai Baht; on the street outside the airport it costs 35 Baht.

Finally, the check-in desks at the new Don Muang airport are often besieged with technical problems causing long queues.

It is hoped that Airports of Thailand (AOT) respond to the complaints made about Don Muang Airport and up-date the facilities, and lobby for a modern public transport link to the airport.

Further reading: www.bangkokboutiquehotel.info/blog/don-muang-revisited/

Kan Air Videos

A look at ‘kanairlines’ YouTube Channel

Kan Air has not only their own website at www.kanairlines.com where you can reserve tickets on their scheduled flights around Changmai but they also have a YouTube channel.

There are only 5 videos currently on the channel (as of 4 Feb, 2013). The last video was uploaded in March 2012. The videos consist of media snippets and promo videos. The extent of the Kan Air online presence and visibility reflects the size of the company.

To make a comparison: Bangkok Air YouTube Channel has 501 subscribers and its 19 videos have been watched 795,596 times. Kan Air YouTube Channel has 12 subscribers and its 5 videos have been viewed 5,596 times.

There is no official footage of Koh Phangan airport yet. However that is soon to change. It will be interesting to see how well the change in Kan Air’s business will be reflected in their online output.

The video below starts with a bit of cheesy dance music that sounds like the Chemical Brothers but soon changes into flying muzak. You also get a clear idea of the size of plane that will be used in Koh Phangan. In the video it is a Cessna C208B Grand Caravan that holds 14 people. For Koh Phangan they are going to use similar sized planes but turbo prop style where the wing is lower on the craft.

The slogan for Kan Air is ‘Flying with Nature’ and the logo is a bird flying west. This features in the videos of Kan Air.

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Finally, the take off section on the video shows the beauty to be seen when taking off from a tropical location. An ocean of lush colors receding as the plane ascends into blue skies.