By TEH ENG HOCK
PETALING JAYA: Malaysians stranded in southern Thailand resorts began returning home after airports there reopened yesterday.
AirAsia operated the first flight out of the resort island of Phuket at 9.05 last night which landed with about 110 people on board at about 11.20pm at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) in Kuala Lumpur.
Although it was a relief for them to be back home, many were still shaken by the experience.
“We did not go out of our hotel. There was no transportation as the bus services had stopped,” said a holidaymaker, who only wanted to be identified as Arthur, who was in Phuket with his wife for their wedding anniversary.
Arthur said they were worried when told that their flight back on Saturday had been cancelled due to the riots.
Student Fatim Najwa Ahmad Hasbullah, 20, said watching scenes of the rioting on local television was a scary experience.
Maritime officer Mohd Faizul Abdul Hak said there were about 100 protesters still waiting at the airport when he arrived there this evening and a lot of policemen maintaining order.
The airport in Phuket had been shut since Friday after anti-government protesters went onto the runway to disrupt flights.
An AirAsia spokesman said he could not state the number of Malaysians who had been affected by flight cancellations on Friday and Saturday.
At Krabi, Malaysians stranded after the airport there was closed had to stay another night in the resort town.
The daily AirAsia flight which was to depart at noon yesterday could not take off as it did not receive clearance to land at Krabi. The first return flight from Kuala Lumpur to Krabi will operate today.
The reopening of Phuket airport yesterday also did not occur soon enough for Firefly.
Firefly managing director Eddy Leong said in a statement that the airline had to cancel its flight from Penang to Phuket which was scheduled to depart at 10.30am yesterday.
He said the returning flight at 11.25am was also cancelled.
He said passengers who had their flight cancelled could opt to fly on the next available flight or ask for a refund.
Customers can call Firefly’s call centre at 03-78454543 between 8am and 9pm for updates.
AirAsia flies three times daily to Phuket and once daily to Krabi while Firefly flies four times a week to Phuket.
The Hat Yai airport was also forced to close on Friday but reopened on Saturday.
Source: The Star, Malaysia, NATION 1 Sep 2008