PHUKET / MAI KHAO: A “Splendid Phuket Merry Christmas and Happy New Year” event will take place on Boxing Day at Phuket International Airport, replacing a previously scheduled activity to welcome the airport’s record 6 millionth passenger in 2008.

Airport authorities expected the 6 millionth passenger to arrive around Christmas, but the milestone will not be reached because of the drop-off in arrivals resulting from the unprecedented closure of the two commercial airports in Bangkok by anti-government protesters from November 25 to December 3.

Instead, the airport will now welcome passengers arriving in Phuket by Thai Airways International flight TG 986 from Perth, Australia. The flight is due to arrive at 2:15 pm on December 26 and passengers stand to get a variety of prizes, including free air tickets.

Airport Director Wicha Nernlop revealed that passenger numbers were down about 30% this December compared to December 2007, when there was an average of about 90 flights and 14,000 passengers daily. The majority of passengers now are Thais, Japanese, Chinese and Russian.

Mr Wicha thinks the worldwide recession and loss of confidence are the main factors for the decline, though he expects the situation to improve after Christmas.

Source: NBT