Will AirAsia head for Hua Hin?

BANGKOK, 1 August 2017: Talk of flights resuming to Hua Hin, a popular beach resort on the Gulf of Thailand, gained traction when the Bangkok Post reported AirAsia would fly there this November.

AirAsia remains silent on the subject, but hotels based in Hua Hin claimed that well-known hotel investor and operator, Bill Heinecke,  who is chairman of Minor International PCL, broached the subject in recent communications with AirAsia’s Tony Fernandes.

A November launch of  five weekly flights, Kuala Lumpur to Hua Hin, is on the cards. Usually, the first sign of a new flight is a fare promotion valid for bookings for around a week after the launch date and for a travel period of around three months. That has not happened so far.

November is the beginning of the peak season for Hua Hin when thousands of tourists visit Thailand to escape the winter in Europe. Hua Hin is a popular destination, but its appeal waned after four bombs exploded near the town’s market, 11 August 2016, and the brutal attack on a British family by Thai thugs during the Songkran Fesival mid-April 2016.

Hua Hin’s perennial problem is its low bookings during mid-week. Packed with Thai tourists during the weekends the resort hibernates from Tuesday to Thursday.

All told the resort, located  220 km southwest of the Thai capital, has more than 30,000 tourist-class and five-star hotel rooms.

The resort’s small airport has seen a few local airlines attempt to start services and Berjaya Air from Kuala Lumpur attempted a launch in 2012 that failed. Other notable failures flying to Hua Hin were Kan Air, Lion Air and Nok Air.

The airport, managed by the Department of Aviation, has  single terminal with a maximum capacity of 300 passengers per hour.

Its runway at 2,100 metres long can handle an A320, or B737, but at an air distance of just 159 km from Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport, the hop is hardly worth the bother by either airlines or travellers. It takes three hours to travel to the resort by road transport and a leisurely four hours by train. But a direct international flight that doesn’t land in Bangkok could have a market.

Hoteliers welcomed the news that AirAsia might fly to Hua Hin from its Kuala Lumpur base.

Ananda Hua Hin Resort & Spa general manager, Nigel Tovey, told TTR Weekly: “We are very encouraged by the recent news that Hua Hin airport may soon re-open for international flights, with AirAsia leading the way, other carriers will follow.”

Ananda Hua Hin Resort and Spa, sporting the largest convention facilities on the Hua Hin coast, is the latest addition to the five-star market in Hua Hin having opened earlier this year.

Nigel Tovey

One of the speculative twists suggests a possible routing of the service beyond Hua Hin. Displaying its usual flair and creativity AirAsia is apparently considering a Kuala Lumpur-Hua Hin-Hong Kong roundtrip route. It would tap two important markets for Hua Hin;  Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong. They are strong outbound markets for leisure travellers, golfers and also incentives and events related business.

“Direct air links with key regional source markets such as Malaysia and Hong Kong would certainly give the destination a much needed boost in terms of international tourist arrivals, particularly mid-week visitors,” Tovey noted.

“Better access by air would also help Hua Hin realise its potential in terms of regional MICE business. This is a significant target market for Ananda Hua Hin Resort and Spa as we have the largest ballroom in the area.”

AirAsia has reportedly said it would need some pretty attractive incentives to make a go of the route, including a waiver of landing and parking fees, cheap office rental and even suspension of the passengers service charge (airport tax).

That could be a stickler for the bureaucrats at the Department of Aviation. They have only agreed to an incentive on landing and parking fees.

The Kuala Lumpur-Hua Hin route (distance 1,248 km) would have a flight time of one hour and 40 minutes and from Hong Kong to Hua Hin (1,829 km) a flight time of two hours and 44 minutes.

(Source: Bangkok Post with additional reporting)

2 COMMENTS

  1. Good morning folks!

    I remember flying Utapao to Hua Hin and later Hua Hin to Chiang Mai aboard Kan Air ATR turboprop. A mere 25 minute hop for 490 bahts one way, that’s indeed better than the 1250 bahts ferry ticket for sailing at Bali Hai Pier pattaya to Hua Hin pier. Will Kan Air ever be revamped? As for Air Asia future link HHQ to KL, let’s wait and see! Recently I’ve flown that low cost from Udon to Utapao brand new terminal. Why is this building an empty shell tending solely to domestic arrivals? So much money has been spent on that structure, yet it’s the old building that prevails for any other operations. I’d appreciate a detailed reply on that matter! Kind regards, Michel

    • Interesting point but we will need help from readers in Pattaya who know the airport, or those who have seen the expansion plans to discover more about the old buildings and terminals? U-Tapao has gone through phases, hot and cold, depending on the government in power over the last decade or more, but it could be a valuable gateway airport. There should be a flight from Singapore for example. Beefing up services to U-Tapao would help to open overland travel along the eastern seaboard as far as the border with Cambodia and beyond. But in the minds of many airline experts in Bangkok, the world is flat and very small. You fall off the rim just beyond Suvarnabhumi in one direction and Don Mueang in the other.

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