Sat, Jan 08, 2005 - Page 11 News List

CAL to resume flights to Thai resort next month

BLOOMBERG

China Airlines (華航), the nation's largest airline, said it plans to resume flights to the Thai resort of Phuket in February on the expectation that tourists will return to the tsunami-devastated region.

"We've scheduled flights for February," Joseph Wu (武志厚), a China Airlines spokesman, said by phone yesterday. "Market demand may pick up."

China Airlines had daily flights from Taipei to Phuket and twice-weekly services from Kaohsiung to the popular tourist destination. The service was suspended after the island was hit by waves unleashed by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake off the cost of Indonesia on Dec. 26, killing more than 150,000 people across Asia and Africa.

Tourist bookings at hotels in Phuket have dropped about 60 percent in January compared with the peak month last year following the tsunami, hotel and tourism officials say. Beach resorts in Sri Lanka and the Maldives are also losing bookings for the Lunar New Year, travel agents said. China Air doesn't plan chartered flights to Phuket for next month's Lunar New Year as it has in the past.

China Airlines does not expect the tsunami aftermath to affect its earnings, Wu said. The sales contribution from Phuket "was minimal," he said.

The carrier flies to 47 cities in 21 countries, including Tokyo, Hong Kong and New York. The company said on Oct. 20, its 2004 net income would probably be NT$4.1 billion (US$127 million) -- more than double from NT$1.8 billion posted in 2003.

The company's third-quarter net income rose 65 percent to almost NT$2.17 billion from NT$1.31 billion a year earlier.

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