Ministry of Transport reported, earlier this week, it will encourage holiday airlines and charters to switch to Krabi’s airport to ease congestion at Phuket, the main airport on the Andaman Sea coast.Transport Minister, Chadchart Sittipunt, said Phuket was a prime tourism destination in South Thailand, but its airport was congested while the airport in Krabi around 100 km on the mainland, from Phuket Island, could help to ease the situation.

Krabi International Airport is run by the Civil Aviation Department and one of the few airports under its control that makes a profit.

It handles around 1 million passengers a year, but could go as high as 3 million without having to upgrading facilities.

“The Civil Aviation Department may add a duty-free shop at Krabi and a possibly a ferry link between the two airports.”

That would be quite problematic as Phuket’s airport is located on the western side of the island facing the open sea, while Krabi Airport is on the mainland facing the eastern side of Phuket island. During the rainy season it would be rough going to sail north to the tip of the island and get to the lee-side of the island.

Comfortable air-conditioned buses would be a more feasible solution as they could complete the journey in less than 90 minutes.

Even without a push strategy to move airlines, Krabi is gaining their attention for obvious reasons. Landing fees are cheaper and for passengers hotel rates are competitive. Beaches are equally attractive and the crime rate is much lower than Phuket.

Around 2 million tourists visit Krabi annually and many of them spread out to visit other resort areas such as Lanta Island.

“The airport needs to be improved, in terms of services, personnel, and infrastructure to cope with more visitors and flight frequencies in the future,” the minister said.

Association of Thai Travel Agents president, Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn, has called for more airline slots at both Phuket and Krabi airports, but congestion at Phuket makes it difficult to cope.

The development of Krabi Airport would require a budget of Bt1.5 billion and plans are in place to compete the proposed expansion within five years.

Krabi Airport is located 13 km from the provincial town. It can accommodate seven Boeing 747s or 14 f Boeing 737s. Its two parking lots can accommodate 465 vehicles. The number of passengers at the airport increases by 12% annually. Almost 100 flights arrive and depart at the airport weekly.