Sunday, January 30, 2011

Thai start-up airlines stacked for take-off

BANGKOK, 28 January 2011 – At least four new Thai airlines – three regional airlines and one domestic – claim they will start operations during the first quarter of the year.
All of them have been awarded  air operations licenses from the Department of Aviation, but that is no guarantee they will all soar to profits in Thailand’s highly competitive sky.
The DoA confirmed the single all-domestic airline would operate out of Chiang Mai International Airport. Kan Air is owned by Kannithi Aviation. It claims it will be ready to start service, 4 February, on new routes; Chiang Mai-Pai and Chiang Mai-Chiang Rai using a 12-seat Cessna turbo-prop 208 Grand Caravan.
The Chiang Mai – Chiang Rai route was formerly served by Nok Mini.
In its business plan it says it will consider other short hops in the North from its Chiang Mai base to Nan, Mae Sarieng and Mae Hong Son.
Beyond its initial plans it talks of basing an aircraft in Phuket to offer similar commuter services. Its  will be up and running soon.
DoA confirmed there are three airlines planning regional services starting with PC Air, that created a stir last week by saying it would hire “third gender” cabin attendants.
The other two start-up airlines are Crystal Thai Airline and Sunny Airways, but they will operate exclusively as charter airlines serving Asian points and bringing mainly tourists to Thailand pre-booked on tour group packages.
They appear to have links either with Asian tour operators, or local travel agencies and that should guarantee a minimum payload on flights.
PC Air is registered as a 100% Thai-owned airline with a capital of Bt200 million. Co-owners are Piyo Chantaraporn, a former THAI steward, fortune teller and real estate business man and Chatwiwat Klamkomol a retired government official.
Its charter operations will begin late March or April. The first of two A310s, leased or purchased, is now undergoing a C-Check overhaul in Singapore. It secured the two aircraft from Air Bagan with 228 seats each (210 in economy and 18 in business).
The second aircraft will join the fleet in three months also to serve charters. A third aircraft will be considered later when the airline prepares to launch scheduled flights in the region.
The airline says it has pilots and is now recruiting air crews and is prepared to offer jobs to the “third gender.” It also says it has a policy to hire handicapped persons to work for the airline.
Sunny Airways named Preecha Kongkate as its managing director, previously linked to ThaiJet Intergroup, which flew charter services. They were terminated in May 2004 after its Turkish Atlas aircraft was withdrawn. Also, he was the founder of Focus Jewelry, Super Star Travel and Kongkate Express.
According to its commercial manager, Chompoo Kongkate, Sunny Airways will start charter operations to Japan and Germany using a B767-200ER to be delivered next month.
It will eventually source a second aircraft. She said the airline will consider scheduled service only when charters services are profitable and stable.
Sunny Airways says on its website that it ‘intends to maintain its own aircraft up to the level of light maintenance. This includes transit checks, daily checks, and A- Checks.  “In the early stages of our operations we will use Thai Airways International to provide specialised repairs and inspections… “
Crystal Thai Airlines is a Thai-South Korean joint venture with a Bt201 million registered capital. The Thai partner is a logistics business tycoon, Manika Sawasdipan, but there no details available, so far,  on her Korean partner.
The airline like the other start-ups will offer just charter services, but hopes to go into the competitive scheduled airline market later.
Its first charters will run from Seoul’s Inchoen airport to Bangkok during the first quarter of this year. Exact dates will be determined by the Korean tour operator chartering flights.
It will take delivery of its first 174-seat A320-200 this quarter and hopes to have its second plane in the air by the last quarter. The airline said on its website a service could operate during the first week of February, but that has since been postponed.
Besides flights from South Korea to Bangkok, there are plans for similar charters featuring Mumbai and Cochin in India as well as Clark in the Philippines. There is even talk of flying to Thimpu in Bhutan; Colombo in Sri Lanka, Dubai in the UAE.
The airline vows to become the “Wings of Asia”, according to its slogan and promises to offer premium service at low fares.
This is not the first Thai-Korean joint venture airline. JetAsia Airways has been promising to start service from Phuket and Bangkok to Seoul since Q3 of 2010. However, due to aircraft leasing problems it remains grounded.
Jet Asia Airways was registered, 29 December, 2009, with a capital of Bt240 million. The major shareholders are: Retired Air Chief Marshal, Paiboon Chanhom named president; Micko Travel managing director, Athikom Chanwerawong and a Chiang Mai businessman, Pichan Chantamanee.
SkyeEyes Airlines a cargo company has been looking for an opportunity to start passenger services (Haj charters) on the Bangkok-Baghdad route and from Cambodia via Phuket to Baghdad, also for Muslim pilgrims. SkeEyes Airlines managing director, Sunthorn Charoenmin told TTR Weekly the plan is pending because of visa regulations (there is no Thai consulate in Iraq) and high insurance costs due war risk cover.
At the end of December 2010, there were 53 companies all holding variations of the DoA’s air transport business permits including authorisations to fly helicopters, balloons and airships.
To register as an aviation company in Thailand requires a registered capital of at least Bt200 million for scheduled airlines.
Most of the 18 non-scheduled airlines hold a license for scheduled and non-scheduled services, too. The active ones in the current market are Siam General Aviaition (Nok Mini), Bangkok Airways, Thai Airways international, Thai AirAsia, Nok Air, Solar Aviation (Solar Air), Happy Air Traveller, Orient Thai Airlines and Business Air Center (Business Air).
Airlines who have announced their intentions to operate services are:
• Sabai Airlines: Managed by Spark Air Company. Currently the license has expired
• Legacy Air: Still holds a valid license, but could lose it in March if it fails to start operations within a year of registration.
• Nakhon Chiang Mai Air: A scheduled airline, faces its one-year deadline in mid-February
• AVA Airline: Registered October 2010, accepts crew recruitment and says it will operate with a B737NG
• Thai Regional Aviation: Registered as a non-scheduled airline with two eight-seat Piper Navajo PA31-350 Chieftain. It has a long list of domestic destinations on its website — Tak, Um Phang, Pai, Phetchaboon, Loei and Roi Et in the first phase.
• Quality Airway: Has a scheduled international service license and said to have two B767-300 and one Airbus A300

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