Koh Phangan Airport

 

Are the rumours true?

 

December 2012

 

It is somewhat premature to write a review of a place that hasn’t been built but it is worth taking a closer look at the Koh Phangan Airport story.

 

For several months the internet was awash with assertions of an airport being built on Koh Phangan and counter-claims that such a project was preposterous. There were also plenty of comments about how disappointing this news was.

 

These knee-jerk reactions are interesting in themselves. It shows that people value the ‘unspoilt’ aspect of the island – namely its healthy and extensive wildlife and pristine beaches, and also the absence of kilometers of high and low class development encircling the island as is the case in Koh Samui. One of Koh Phangan’s biggest attractions is that it is not like Koh Samui.

 

And yet, Thong Nai Pan Noi is like Koh Samui in that it has 4 luxury hotels to choose from.

 

So it should come as little surprise that Koh Phangan Airport is being built literally just down the road from Thong Nai Pan. It is between just south of Than Sadet, on the coastal side of the road. It will take just a few minutes to check bags out and get from KP Airport to Anantara Rasananda.

 

It is a small site located in Than Prapas. The proposed runway is nearly half the size of the one on Koh Samui. Because the site is so small the local authorities allowed Kan Air to skip an environmental impact assessment or EIA.

 

This in itself does not endanger the project. Nature is very much in the ascendency in the mountainous north east of Koh Phangan. What is more interesting is that missing the EIA expedites construction and saves money.

 

Kan Air is flying by its bootlaces. They formed in 2010 and have one small plane in operation between small towns and nearby Chiang Mai. Kannithi Aviation Co. Ltd was formed by wealth generated in the debt collection industry in Thailand.

 

It is a major coup for such a newcomer in the aviation world to land such a juicy flight route. Koh Phangan has tens of thousands of tourists visiting every month. Out of these there are plenty who would opt to fly rather than catch a ferry. It will also be a monopoly, just as Bangkok Air had over Koh Samui for a long time (and still does to a certain extent).

 

Kan Air has stated that their plan is to lease 3 50-seater turbo props and make 3 runs between Bangkok (Don Muang) and Koh Phangan a day. They don’t have the money to buy planes yet and the profit they can initially expect from such a small daily carrying capacity is not huge sums of Baht.

 

Delays in construction because of bad weather, financing difficulties and engineering problems could seriously stretch Kan Air. It is not a bad wager that much of the money for the airport’s construction comes from banks. Delays means added interest accrued and deadlines looming.

 

Koh Phangan Airport near Thong Nai Pan will no doubt eventually be completed and operational; the Kan Air deadline is the second half of 2013. However, it is unlikely for the next 5 or so years that Koh Phangan Airport will have much impact on the demographics of visitors to the island or to the look and feel of the island.

 

The change to Koh Phangan by having an airport will in the beginning be mostly symbolic. The island will join an elite club of Thai destinations with their own commercial airport. Thong Nai Pan with its boutique airport nearby will also further enhance its image as a high-end destination.

 

I promise that when the actual airport is built I will use it and write a review about a real place and a real service.

 

Koh Phangan Airport 2012

Update 2016

Looking back this article is fairly prescient: it predicted difficulties in constructing Koh Phangan Airport, and indeed that has been the case. Work on the airport was stopped in 2015 because of problems found with the land titles.