Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Thailand: SGA Airlines to fly small aircraft to Mae Hong Son

Small private airline may take over two THAI routes

AMORNRAT MAHITTHIROOK

Thai Airways International (THAI) may suspend its loss-ridden Bangkok-Phitsanulok and Chiang Mai-Mae Hong Son services and let a small private airline take over the routes to cut losses.

Chaisak: Made heavy losses in past year

Chaisak Angsuwan, deputy permanent secretary for transport, said yesterday that THAI incurred heavy losses of about 66 million baht on both domestic routes in the past year because the global economic downturn had cut the number of passengers on the routes by about 50%.

"THAI must review its flight services especially on loss-ridden routes and hand them over to small airlines that are ready and interested and have lower operational costs. THAI will focus on international routes to major markets," he said.

According to Mr Chaisak, SGA Airlines is interested in taking over the Chiang Mai-Mae Hong Son route using a 12-seater aircraft.

THAI has proposed a code-sharing service with the private carrier although the details have yet to be worked out.

THAI, however, still makes profits on its flights from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Udon Thani, Khon Kaen, Surat Thani, Krabi, Hat Yai and Phuket.

Mr Chaisak added that the global economic slump had also prompted THAI to review its international services. The number of passengers from China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan, THAI's main markets, has fallen sharply. He believed the airline should turn to the Middle East market where purchasing power remains high.

THAI has not penetrated that market where there is high demand for travel to Thailand, especially from Iran and Qatar. IranAir and Mahan Air were operating five and three flights a week, respectively, to Thailand, Mr Chaisak said.

Over the New Year holidays, THAI will increase flights between Dec 30 and Jan 11 on routes between Bangkok and other provinces, namely Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phuket, Krabi and Hat Yai in Songkhla province.

The State Railway of Thailand will also increase the frequency of trains from Dec 29 to Jan 4 from Bangkok to Ubon Ratchathani, Uttaradit (Sila-at), Udon Thani and Si Sa Ket.

The Mass Rapid Transit Authority will extend its subway hours from midnight of Dec 31 until 2am of Jan 1 for people celebrating New Year countdown events.

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