Thursday, September 2, 2010

Thai and Tiger alliance hit snag

THAILAND TRAVEL NEWS: Plans by national flag carrier Thai Airways International (THAI) to form a low-cost carrier partnership with Singapore-based Tiger Airways have struck a hurdle, with Thailand’s Transport Ministry lodging an objection to the planed Thai Tiger Airlines (TTA) venture.

On August 4 Thailand Travel News reported THAI had signed an in-principle agreement to purchase 51 percent of regional low-cost carrier Tiger Airways, a subsidiary of Singapore national carrier, Singapore Airlines, to establish TTA (see: Thai Tiger Airlines to be Asia’s Next Discount Airline).

However, despite having the support of Thailand’s Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, and Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij, the plan has not met with the approval of the country’s Transport Ministry, which yesterday said any expansion by THAI into the low-cost carrier market should be done using THAI’s local affiliate Nok Air.

Transport Minister Sohpon Zarum said yesterday that it remained unclear about THAI’s decision to grant aviation rights to a foreign airline and was “now studying related laws to find out whether the planned joint venture for a low cost airline involving THAI and Tiger Airways is feasible and lawful”.

Prime Minister Abhisit, Mr Korn and Mr Sohpon are scheduled to visit THAI headquarters tomorrow to give a policy briefing to the board of directors and top management, with the formation of the new carrier not expected to be resolved before the meeting.

Remaining unfazed by the challenge from the Transport Ministry, THAI president Piyasvasti Amranand said on Tuesday that the utmost efforts would be made to ensure that the new budget airline begins flying by next March.

THAI previously announced that the Bt200 million (about $US6.2 million) Thai Tiger Airlines joint-venture planned to purchase five A320 aircraft from Airbus next year, and 10 additional aircraft in 2012, though no announcement has been made as to whether aircraft orders have been placed yet or not.

By John Le Fevre

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