As the gateway to some of the world’s most popular beaches and tourism Phuket is leading the way in Thailand. It is every increasing in popularity because of the facility with which tourists can get low cost flights to and from Bangkok and the seasonal direct flights that arrive to Phuket from around the world. In either case be sure and get a window seat if you can, arrival and departure into Phuket is stunning and gorgeous.
One thing is for certain; the airport as it exists right now is severely outpaced by the rapid growth of tourism to the area. That being said, the staff seem to do a pretty good job with moving the vast quantities of people through the limited space. It may not be all the glamour one can expect from Asian hubs like Hong Kong and Singapore, but it is functional. Some complain that the staff are rude and short with tourists, this has not been our experience having flown in and out several times. Also a good tip is to go in low season, flights are less full and the airport is much more navigable.
For those arriving the array of planes out on the runway is impressive, often one will see a conglomeration of flights and carriers from around the world lined up. The baggage pickup has always been swift and easy to navigate and one is outside the terminal in no time. Once outside its usually a sea of people and competing taxi and car services. The best thing to do is get a shared taxi van whose price is negotiable, otherwise your hotel might have a pick up service, but check on that beforehand. There is a bus service that serves the main road into Phuket city proper.
Immigration can be a bit lengthy just due to the numbers of tourists, this of course only applies to those coming from outside Thailand, those coming from Bangkok or Chang Mai can move on directly. There are four currency exchange depots on the ground floor but these often do not have good rates. Better instead to seek out one of the ten or so ATM machines on the first floor whose rates are often better. The airport has several restaurants in the departures hall and well marked desks which can be easily observed in the wide open atrium. Security is very good and one will have their bags screened upon walking in as a well as the pre-flight screening.
The airport does not have a free wifi service but there are computer stations where one can purchase timed segments of online access. Toilets and facilities are outdated to be sure, but are kept reasonably clean for the vast amounts of foot traffic. The waiting area for departures has lots of seating and it is not uncommon to see people sleeping or preparing for long haul flights outbound. The boarding process usually begins early for every flight and takes the form of an unorthodox line which wraps around a hallway so pay attention to your boarding calls. There is a lounge for Thai Airways and its affiliates, but that is all. Phuket is an airport that does well for its situation and hopefully it will only expand and improve with the passage of time.