Tour operators are urging the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) to help hundreds of tourists from Scandinavia, who have been stuck at Suvarnabhumi Airport for four days after most flights to Europe were cancelled due to a volcanic ash cloud over European skies.
Stranded tourists wait for news about their flights at the departures area of Suvarnabhumi Airport yesterday. AFP
Apichart Sankary, an honorary adviser to the Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA), said the TAT should lend a hand to help stranded tourists and show the country’s spirit.
“Most of them are independent tourists. Many of them have no money and have to stay many nights at the airport. We should help them such as providing food and drinking water until they can go home,” he said.
His inbound travel company, A.E.D. Asia Travel, has about 1,000 Scandinavian clients who are currently unable to fly home.
Mr Apichart estimated that more than 10,000 tourists have been stuck in Thailand since a volcano in Iceland erupted and its ash caused the cancellation of scores of flights on safety fears.
“For tourists who bought package tours from big travel agents like Thomas Cook UK & Ireland, their agents have looked after them such as arranging accommodation,” he said.
“We must find ways to bring back our guests to their home because they are more concerned about local political conflicts, which is likely to get more serious.”
A.E.D. Asia Travel has already arranged some direct flights from Phuket International Airport to Athens International Airport, which remains open, and has then transferred passengers to other destinations via buses. This service has been available since Sunday.
The company hopes to gradually send all its guests back home. However, only 350 seats per flight can’t meet all demand and it is now negotiating with Thai Airways International (THAI) to add flights to available airports in Europe.
At the present, all bookings from Scandinavia have been cancelled and operators must closely monitor the situation, Mr Apichart noted.
Charoen Wangananont, president of the Thai Travel Agents Association (TAA), said more than 10,000 Thai tourists were stuck in Europe.
Many have to take care of themselves and some tour agents have helped them to find accommodation and support some meals, he said.
“Many Thai tourists told me that Thai Airways hasn’t lent a hand to help passengers over there. They asked the airline to be flexible and help them re-route the flights but THAI didn’t help. If clients want to go home by re-routing to fly via Milan or Rome, they must pay for the new tickets themselves,” Mr Charoen said.
He added that Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa had taken care of their clients as much as possible, by arranging free accommodation and some meals.
“I would like to ask THAI executives to take charge of this urgent problem and take any action to help Thai people over there,” he said.