Updates on Bangkok Airways Samui Airport Closure

Travel News Asia Latest Travel News Podcasts Videos Updated: Thursday, 4 November 2010

Developing Story: Update @ 06:07 (4 Nov) - Samui Airport has resumed normal operations with 44 domestic and international flights in total today.

The airline has also opened a relief centre to receive donations for flood victims on Koh Samui. Items needed include dry foods, canned foods, instant foods and other necessities. Donations can be made at Bangkok Airways head office, Vibhavadirangsit Road or call 02 265 5658, 02 265 5663 or 02 265 5686. The centre is open between 08.00 - 17.00 hrs.

Update @ 06:07 (4 Nov) - Flights now seem to be operating normally however we have received a lot of scathing reports from disgruntled passengers over the way that "Asia's Boutique Airline" handled the Samui Airport closure. Was it their fault? No, of course not, but this was not the first crisis to face the airline and it won't be the last. What is puzzling though, is what lessons were learned from previous situations, as the most common complaint seems to be the total lack of communication and crisis management skills.

Update @ 23:41 (3 Nov) - Qatar Airways has informed us that any passengers affected by the Samui Airport closure or bad weather in certain parts of southern Thailand, should contact their Bangkok or Phuket office. It seems the airline is being very flexible and understanding with regards to ticket changes.

Update @ 15:00 (3 Nov) - Bangkok Airways resumed flights to / from Samui at around 15:00. With the check-in counters at Suvarnabhumi were surprisingly quiet considering flights had just reopened, we did meet a group from the UK who told us of their experience of leaving Bangkok on Tuesday at around 11:00, being told by the pilot they were preparing to land on Samui only to fly around the island twice, before returning to Bangkok. One interesting thing about that story is that the airline was carrying enough fuel to do the return trip, and one positive is the airline stuck by its promise of offering a reroute at no extra cost. That group of 5 British holiday makers are now in Phuket where the weather is surprisingly nice (and dry).

Update @ 13:28 (3 Nov) - As the weather and flooding has worsened, the flights detailed in update @ 12:28 below have again been pushed back. It should go without saying that the longer this continues, the larger the stranded numbers of passengers detailed below will become, and of course the greater the cost to Bangkok Airways which is putting those not able to travel up in hotels.

Update @ 12:28 (3 Nov) - Bangkok Airways has said it now expects to resume flights from Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok to Samui from 13:30 onwards. Weather permitting, Samui Airport will operate 36 domestic and international flights (although this could increase to 42) in total today as detailed below:

Bangkok Samui 9 flights / Samui Bangkok 9 flights
Samui Phuket 3 flights / Phuket Samui 3 flights
Samui U-Tapao 2 flights / U-Tapao Samui 2 flights
Samui Krabi 1 flight / Krabi Samui 1 flight
Samui Hong Kong 1 flight / Hong Kong Samui 1 flight
Samui Singapore 1 flight / Singapore Samui 1 flight

 At press time, the following numbers of stranded passengers were affected by the airport closure:

Bangkok - Samui 1064
Samui - Bangkok 1128
Phuket - Samui 98
Samui - Phuket 122
Krabi - Samui 7
Samui - Krabi 11
U-Tapao - Samui 16
Samui - U -Tapao 36
Chiang Mai - Samui 49
Samui - Chiang Mai ?
Singapore - Samui 77
Samui - Singapore 37
Hong Kong - Samui 92
Samui - Hong Kong 114

For more information, please contact Bangkok Airways call center 1771 or +66 2 270 6699, Samui Airport Office +66 77 428 500, Samui Chaweng Office +66 77 601 300 or your local Bangkok Airways office or travel agent if you are overseas.

This is a constantly evolving situation made even less predictable by the fact that the above operations are weather dependent. The airline has confirmed that passengers are allowed to change their bookings as well as cancel without any charge.

Update @ 09:15 (3 Nov) - All flights between Samui and Bangkok and other destinations have been suspended until further notice.

Update @ 09:07 (3 Nov) - After finally getting through to an unofficial spokesperson for the airline, we asked about the situation, the confusion as outlined in the update @ 08:14 below, what passengers in Bangkok and other parts of Thailand - as well as those flying PG from overseas should do, why no official announcement had been made etc. Unfortunately the reply was that he is waiting for news from his superiors, and that heavy rain has restarted in Samui which is again causing disruption. When asked what someone with a confirmed ticket on a flight from Bangkok to Samui should do, the reply was non-committal, with promises of updates to come.

It is of course not just PG customers that are affected, there are many passengers that fly on PG as part of codeshare agreements such as the ones with Etihad Airways, Air Berlin, Air France, and EVA Air. There are also those that were supposed to connect onto other airlines to fly elsewhere and those stranded on islands around Samui.

Update @ 08:14 (3 Nov) - We have still been unable to get through to the PR department, or any other senior execs, however we have been informed that all scheduled flights between Bangkok and Samui are now operating normally. HOWEVER, and somewhat confusingly, we have been told that normal services between Samui and Bangkok will only recommence tomorrow (Thursday) morning. To add to the confusion, three flights from Samui to Bangkok are confirmed - 11:00, 12:45 and 13:45. We are desperately trying to get you an official announcement from the airline on exactly what is happening.

Update @ 07:48 (3 Nov) - The message on the 1711 number has finally changed from "we are closed" and please go to the website, to our operators are all busy, please hold.

Update @ 03:15 (3 Nov) - It now looks like the best anyone can hope for is the weather improves and that flights begin later today (Wednesday). Flights stats from Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi show that the scheduled PG and partner airline flights are still delayed, however flight stats for Samui airport show a possible green light for an early arrival onto the island. Again, the lack of information and communication from Asia's self-proclaimed "Boutique Airline" is deafening.

Update @ 21:48 (2 Nov) - Flight stats are showing the scheduled PG flights (which includes some codeshare / partner airline flights) have not left either Samui or Bangkok but we have not been able to verify this information. The lack of information on this matter from the airline, or even TAT in Samui or elsewhere in Thailand, is really disappointing to say the least. Our thoughts and sincere apologies go out to those affected by the airport closure and are looking for more substantial info on this matter.

Update @ 18:34 (2 Nov) - The latest is that Bangkok Airways will open the airport at 21:00 and will operate flights between Bangkok and Samui until 03:40.

When asked whether these operational times were 100% guaranteed the PG spokesperson said that they were at that moment, which is also exactly what we were told for the previous opening time as well.

One positive, is that while the airline keeps pushing back the opening time - just now from 19:30 to 21:00 - it is also moving the time it will end services on Wednesday morning - from 02:00 to 03:40 - so it can at last try to get as many of the confirmed and stranded passengers to where they should be.

Original article: Bangkok Airways has confirmed with ASIA Travel that its airport in Koh Samui, Thailand, which had been closed since around 14:00 due to poor weather conditions that has led to severe flooding on the island, will reopen at 21:00 today (Tuesday, 2 November 2010).

The flights between Bangkok and Samui will run from 19:30 on Tuesday until 02:00 on Wednesday as the airline tries to clear the backlog of passengers stranded.

An unofficial spokesperson for the airline said that it is also allowing passengers to change their flights for no extra charge, and that if passengers are unable to fly out today, then they would be offered complimentary hotel accommodation.

Concerned passengers can call the hotline on 1771 if they are in Thailand, or +661771 if they are outside Thailand. A word of caution however, this number is just the general automated reservation line and not a dedicated number regarding the closure of the airport. In fact, if you try and call it and answer a few questions to try and change your flight then you are told the office is closed, and to head to the website to submit an enquiry. Not something which is recommended in any crisis management handbook worth its salt, and of absolutely no help to fare paying passengers who are trying to find out the latest about their flights.

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