Thursday, August 19, 2010

Happy Air adds second base in Thailand's Isan region

BANGKOK, 18 August 2010 – Happy Air has established a new base in Nakhon Ratchasima in order to operate more flights to towns in the North and Northeast Thailand.

The airline will base two aircraft in the northeastern city and one in Phuket.

Happy Air sales and marketing manager, Phatcharapon Sontipun, told TTR Weekly that the airline is confident that its Nakhon Ratchasima, hub can be developed into its main operational base. The airport comes under the Civil Aviation Department with lower parking and landing fees than at the Airports of Thailand managed Phuket Airport.

“We will keep one aircraft in Phuket and have two operating out of Korat by 1 October.”

The airline will take delivery of two Swedish turboprop, 33-seat Saab-340 aircraft that were previously used by Nok Mini.

“We got the news that the Australian firm will not renew the leasing contract with Nok Mini so we were able to ink a deal before the aircraft were transferred back to Australia. That saves set-up costs.”

“We have to streamline our operations as we know it will not be easy to operate flights in the northern part of Thailand but we have to admit that it is also difficult to compete on the main Bangkok-Phuket route with the equipment we have. We decided to make Korat our main base due a geographical advantage and also we have been given strong support from the province and the Civil Aviation Department to set up a base.”

The first flight out of Nakhon Ratchasima will start 19 August on a route to Chiang Mai. By 20 August a service from Nakhon Ratchasima to Bangkok will be launched, followed by Bangkok-Nan and Bangkok-Luang Prabang services 23 August. The aircraft on these two routes flies from the northeast base to Suvarnabhumi Airport to start the services.

On the Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima route, the management recognises it will be a tough challenge as several airlines have failed to make a go of this route. The distance is only 259 km and there are hourly bus services to the capital.

Happy Air will set the fare at around Bt1,500 per sector and will provide a van shuttle service from the airport to downtown Bangkok for Bt150.

As for Nan and Luang Prabang, the airline previously flew these routes and suspended services. The Luang Prabang route was launched 23 July and attracted very few passengers.

“We jumped in too quickly. We had outbound groups but lacked return traffic. Also we operated daily and we will now try a three weekly service,” said Mr Phatcharapon.

The the Luang Prabang fare will be around Bt3,400 per sector, while the Bangkok-Nan fare will be Bt2,800 per sector.

By October, the airline will open services to Loei, out of Bangkok, Nakhon Ratchasima to Chiang Rai and Nakhon Ratchasima to Chiang Mai services.

Last week, 8 August, the airline joined forces with Ranong Air, formed by the Royal Erawan Group and Siamchai International Food, to ferry passengers to Ranong, twice weekly. Passengers connect with a boat service to a casino island in Burmese waters, near Victoria Point. The Fare is Bt2,800 per sector.

Also last week, the airline started three weekly services to Nakhon Si Thammarat from its Phuket base with a sector fare of Bt1,200.

Other services include four weekly flights between Phuket and Hat Yai and once weekly from Phuket to Langkawi. One-way fares are Bt1,700 and Bt3,050 respectively.

The airline started its business October last year. For more information, contact 076327 777-80 or visit www.happyair.co.th There is no online booking capability at present.

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