Friday, February 25, 2011

Thailand’s domestic network improves

February 23, 2011 by Rapeepat Mantanarat  
Filed under Aviation, News
BANGKOK 23 February 2011 – Thailand’s aviation industry is undergoing changes that will deliver improvements to the domestic network and open up secondary destinations in the country.
In less than a year new airline services to secondary destinations, that were previously linked only by road, are offering more options for overseas tour operators.
Thailand’s delegation to the ITB in Berlin hopes to convince European tour operators that there are now options for travellers to explore destinations in the North and Northeast using a combination of tour buses and commuter airline services.
A community airline, Solar Air started operations in August 2010 and currently serves seven destinations from Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport to secondary cities and also between provinces.
From Bangkok it operates services to: Roi Et, Nan, Mae Sot (four weekly); Phetchaboon, Loei (threee weekly), Phrae (weekly) and Chumporn (six weekly). Travel between Phetchaboon and Loei is also possible.
The airline will connect Mae Sot, the border town on the west with Chiang Mai, the major city in the north this March with three-weekly services, using a 19-seat Dornier 228.
Last month, Nok Air increased services on seven domestic routes lifting daily services across its network from 30 a day to 39.
The Bangkok-Chiang Mai route is being served by six daily services, up from four meaning  the airline has a flight departing every two hours from morning until late evening.
Frequency on routes to Udon Thani and Nakhon Si Thammarat has increased from three to four; Hat Yai, from four to five; Trang, from one to two; Phuket from two to four and Surat Thani from two to three.
Services on other routes from Bangkok remain the same: Three daily to Ubon Ratchathani; twice daily to Phitsanulok; daily to Sakhon Nakhon and Nakhon Phanom and twice weekly to Buriram. Chiang Mai-Mae Hong Son is served by two flights daily.
Currently, Nok Air has 10 B737-400 aircraft in the fleet. Nok Air should take delivery of a larger B737-800s later this year. It intends to fly to Narathiwat in the Deep South where Thai AirAsia enjoys a monopoly.
Happy Air started services during the second half of 2009 as a Phuket based airline and has expanded services while making Nakhon Ratchasima, a town in Northeast Thailand, its main base.
Using a 34-seats Saab 340, it has flights between Nakhon Ratchasima and Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, Phitsanulok and Chiang Mai (twice week); between Chiang Mai and Phitsanulok (twice week); between Suvanabhumi and Loei (four weekly), Mae Sot (three weekly) and Nan (six weekly); also between Phuket and Hat Yai and Ranong (three weekly).
Kan Air, the newest domestic airline starting operations in February, operates flights out of Chiang Mai International Airport. Initially it flies from Chiang Mai to Pai, Chiang Rai and Nan using a 12-seat Cessna turbo-prop 208 Grand Caravan with daily services.
In its business plan it says it will consider other short hops in the North from its Chiang Mai base to Mae Sarieng and Mae Hong Son.
Orient Thai Airlines is not expanding, but it will modernise its fleet this year. The airline confirmed it will take delivery of 12 Superjet 100s, with an option of 12 more Superjet 100s from the Russian aircraft manufacturer Sukhoi. Deliveries will begin in the third quarter of this year allowing the company to phase out its MD82s.
The new aircraft have 98 seats in a single configuration. It will reduce seat capacity by 37% when compared to the 155-seat MD-82s.
Current destinations from Bangkok are: Chiang Mai (twice daily), Chiang Rai (twice daily), Trang (daily), Phuket (twice daily) and Hat Yai(twice daily).
Earlier this year, Thai Asia established its third hub in Chiang Mai after Bangkok and Phuket. Domestically, it now only operates on route linking Chiang Mai with Hat Yai (daily), a commercial centre in South Thailand. Inter-provincial flights from Phuket serve Ubon Ratchathani (three weekly), Udon Thani (daily), Chiang Mai (twice daily) and Bangkok (eight daily).
However, a couple routes in the north operated by Nok Mini are currently suspended — Chiang Mai-Pai and Chiang Mai-Nan due to a change of aircraft. The airline retired its Cessa Grand Caravan fleet and is replacing it with two 34-seat Saab 340s. With just one Saab aircraft it commenced, 1 February, a Chiang Mai-Udon Thani service, with one daily flight. Three flights will be added from 28 February, lifting frequency to 10 flights a week.

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