Tuesday, July 8, 2008


BANGKOK, July 8 Asia Pulse - With jet fuel prices skyrocketing and passenger traffic slowing down, Thailand’s four airlines have started reducing routes as well as flight frequencies, including popular long haul flights.

Thai Airways International (THAI), its low cost subsidiary Nok Air, Thai Air Asia and One-Two-Go have cited jet fuel prices of more than US$170 a barrel and strong competition for the move.

It has affected many popular destinations in the country.

THAI, the Kingdom’s premium airline and one of the only 11 international airlines that offers extra-long scheduled passenger flights, had stopped its 17-hour Bangkok-New York route on July 1 while the non-stop Bangkok-Los Angeles and Bangkok-Auckland routes would have stop-overs beginning October.

“The era of ultra long-haul flights has come to an end,” Bangkok Post quoted THAI executive vice-president Pandit Chanapai as saying.

The airline recently increased its fuel surcharge and currently charges between US$60 and US$281 per ticket.

Despite having almost full capacity for the New York route which started in May, 2005, the airline said it would lose about 120 million baht a year (about US$3.55 million) as the Airbus A340-500s with 275 seats need more than 210,000 litres of fuel for the 13,000km journey.

It is also looking for buyers for its four A340-500 jets, which have a listed price of about US$180 million each.

The Association of Thai Travel Agents had said that several major airlines, including THAI and Lufthansa are likely to cut long haul flights due to the expected 12 percent drop in inbound tourists, reducing the 17 million target to 15 million next year, while Nok Air, 39 percent owned by THAI, was given a lifeline by its major shareholders last week after initial talk that it would be closed down after registering 114 million baht in losses.

From about 52 flights a day, Nok Air, which operates nine Boeing 737 and one ATR propeller plane, has reduced frequencies to 32 while international routes to Bangalore in India and Hanoi had been cancelled.

Thai AirAsia had cancelled its weekly flight to Xiamen, China due to lack of passengers, reduced daily flights to Yangon to four a week but still plans to fly to Hong Kong and Guangzhou, China in the next few months.

It currently flies to 10 local and 11 international destinations, including Kuala Lumpur (seven flights daily), Penang and Johor Baharu in Malaysia.

One-Two-Go, launched four years ago as Thailand’s first low-cost carrier, has cut the number of Bangkok-Chiang Mai and Bangkok-Phuket flights from 28 per week to 21, while frequencies to Hatyai, Chiang Rai and Nakhon Si Thammarat have also been reduced.

Its parent company, Orient Thai Airlines, which mainly operates international services, have also lease out planes to Myanmar Airlines.


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