Thursday, April 1, 2010

Air Berlin cuts its flights to Thailand

Air Berlin, Germany's second largest airline, is to cut back the capacity for flights between Thailand and Germany by nearly 40% starting on May 2 mainly in response to low-season demand.

The low-fare carrier will slash frequencies to eight flights a week from 13 flights currently, with the suspension of two routes in the May-October period.

Bangkok-Munich and Phuket-Berlin will be suspended, while Bangkok-Dusseldorf, Bangkok-Berlin and Phuket-Munich routes will remain on the summer traffic schedules.

The airline will continue to use Airbus A330-200 wide-body jets, with 279 seats in economy class and 24 in business, for the Thailand-Germany routes.

Air Berlin executives in Bangkok said the cutback was pre-planned for slow summer demand and had little to do with Thailand's current political turmoil.

The airline said that so far, it had experienced no effects from the red-shirt demonstration and continued to fill 90-100% of its seats.

"Our booking numbers are still very good, which can be seen in our average load factor of 98% for flights out of Bangkok. There are no requests for cancellations," said Stefan Magiera, general manager Thailand for Air Berlin PLC & Co Luftverkehrs KG.

"Therefore, we have not noticed any major negative consequences yet."

The assurances came despite an EU travel advisory for its citizens to exercise caution when travel to Thailand.

Air Berlin's flights out of Bangkok are fully booked during Songkran as many Thais holiday in Europe, said Rungnapa Leechaianan, head of marketing and sales at Air Berlin's Bangkok office.

A promotion until April 30 with all-inclusive round trips to Germany for about 25,000 baht and flights to other European cities in Air Berlin's network at about 28,000 baht should ensure high cabin factor in May and June.

The agreement by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and the red-shirt leaders to come to the negotiation table to find a solution to the political impasse should improve sentiment among foreign travellers, she said.

Under the new flight schedules, Air Berlin offers four flights a week between Bangkok and Dusseldorf, three flights on Bangkok-Berlin and one flight a week on Phuket-Munich.

Air Berlin has had a code-share deal with Bangkok Airways which allows the German airline to feed its passengers from many German cities to the domestic network operated by the Thai privately owned carrier.

Last year, Air Berlin, Europe's fifth largest airline, carried 27.9 million passengers. It has one of the industry's youngest fleets, averaging 5.5 years.

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