13 October 2010
Thai AirAsia (TAA) will break new ground in air travel between Thailand and India with the debut of low-cost service in December.
After nearly two years of planning and navigating India's complex approval process, the no-frills airline will launch its long-awaited flights from Bangkok to Kolkata and New Delhi on Dec 1.
Thai AirAsia, the local affiliate of Malaysia-based AirAsia, Asia's largest budget carrier, was granted its desired daily frequency for the Kolkata-bound route but must wait another 60 days to operate a similar seven flights a week between Bangkok and New Delhi.
Indian aviation authorities said Thai AirAsia could operate four flights a week on the Bangkok-New Delhi sector now, but the airline prefers to wait until it can offer daily flights.
The airline has been eager to capitalise on fast-growing demand for air service between the two countries and enlarge its traffic base by focusing more on the "very budget conscious" segment.
Last year, arrivals from India increased by 14.45% to 614,566, ranking fifth in Thailand's foreign visitor tally and bringing in more than 16 billion baht in foreign exchange.
For the first eight months of this year, Indian arrivals jumped 20% year-on-year, underlying the significant growth for this sector of the market, chief executive Tassapon Bijleveld said yesterday, citing official figures.
He said the airline was upbeat about the market response to its first two Indian routes, expecting to see an initial cabin factor of 85-90%.
Thai AirAsia has said it also hopes to launch a third route, Bangkok-Mumbai, also with a daily frequency, sometime in the second half of 2011.
Mr Tassapon said the airline was also studying the potential of adding Chennai and Bangalore to its Indian network but declined to give a timeframe for when any changes may occur.
He said while AirAsia and the long-distance AirAsia X have been flying to India from their Malaysian hub, Indians still need time fully to embrace the low-cost carrier model, which is still unfamiliar to most Indians.
Thai Airways International and four legacy Indian carriers currently operate between Thailand and India.