08 September 2010
Thai AirAsia will make Chiang Mai its third hub, after Phuket and Suvarnabhumi airports, as the no-frills carrier creates an additional sub-network to complement its expanding coverage.
The Chiang Mai hub, through which the airline will operate direct links with other destinations in Thailand and overseas, is due to be up and running in January.
The airline, part of Asia's largest low-cost carrier group, will inaugurate its northern hub with three routes, from Chiang Mai to Hat Yai, Bangkok and Singapore, all with daily frequencies.
Thai AirAsia chief executive Tassapon Bijleveld said that establishing services directly out of Chiang Mai would enable the carrier to exploit untapped traffic opportunities, especially in the leisure sector.
"By offering non-stop flights between Chiang Mai and other destinations, we'll encourage more people to fly more conveniently with less time, cost and hassles involving flight connections," he said.
The creation of a new hub will be made possible by the delivery in January of a new A320 jet from the European planemaker Airbus. The twin-engine, single-aisle 180-seat jet, Thai AirAsia's 20th, will be based at Chiang Mai International Airport.
Thai AirAsia launched Phuket as its second hub in 2009 in a strategic move to open up a new market, bypassing the traditional route that goes through Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport.
Today, the airline operates frequent services out of the Thai southern resort island to seven cities: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Udon Thani, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.
In May, Thai AirAsia suspended flights from Phuket to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and Medan in Indonesia, as traffic demand has been lower than expected. These flights began last December.
On Oct 12, the airline will start a new route, Phuket-Udon Ratchathani, with three flights a week, on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Sixteen of Thai AirAsia's current fleet of 18 A320s operate through Suvarnabhumi with two based in Phuket.
It is taking delivery of its 19th A320 next month as it continues to aggressively expand domestically and regionally with the launch of long-awaited flights from Bangkok to Indian cities such as Mumbai, New Delhi and Kolkata, possibly in the fourth quarter.
Other major Thai cities including Hat Yai and Udon Thani are candidates for Thai AirAsia's next hub, though Mr Tassapon did not give a time frame for its establishment.