Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thailand's no-frills airlines to answer accusations of high charges

The Office of the Consumer Protection Board (OCPB) is summoning lowcost airlines to respond to complaints of unfair charges.

The OCPB has issued letters to all lowcost airlines operating in Thailand - Thai AirAsia, Nok Air and OneTwoGo by Orient Thai - demanding that they meet with officials by tomorrow to discuss the complaints.

Last week, an MP from the South raised the issue, saying nofrill operators were charging passengers higher prices than usual. Some passengers paid airfares at a similar level to premium airlines such as Thai Airways International, the MP alleged.

Santisuk Klongchaiya, director of commercial operations at Thai AirAsia, said the airline would meet with the OCPB this week. He insisted that the company's average airfares were 1020 percent lower than THAI's. However some walkin passengers might be subject to a higher price because of a dynamic price reservation system.

"I'm confident that more than 80 per cent of our consumers are enjoying cheap prices," he said.

He added that premium airlines sometimes cut their rates to a similar level as lowcost carriers, which might cause public misunderstanding.

Overseas, consumers know how to get the lowest price by making reservations far in advance, but in Thailand few are familiar with the procedure.

This year, Thai AirAsia projects serving 6.2 million passengers, reaping Bt12 billion in revenue for Bt1.2 billion profit. The airline has serviced 4.8 million travellers since January.

Next year, the company plans to operate direct flights between Chiang Mai and Hat Yai and between Chiang Mai and Singapore, using two brandnew Airbus A320s. It will also increase the frequency between Bangkok and Chiang Mai from six flights per day to seven.

By the end of this year, it is scheduled to operate BangkokNew Dehli and BangkokKolkata routes in India and service between Phuket and Bali in Indonesia.

Thai AirAsia and Krungthai Panich Insurance Co yesterday launched a new travel protection product called AirAsia Insure.

Passengers will be able to buy travel insurance starting at Bt74.9 per oneway domestic flight and Bt90 per sector on international flights.

Only 15 per cent of a total of 300,000400,000 passengers per month buy insurance, but the two firms expect that figure to increase to 40 per cent after introduction of the offer.

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