Home' Asian Aviation : AAV October 2010 Contents 8 AsianAviation | OCTOBER 2010
Thai Airways International says it remains
confident that the start-up of its new low-
cost venture Thai Tiger Airways will proceed
as planned, despite opposition from the
Ministry of Transport and several other
Thai Airways Chairman Ampon Kittiampon
says operations will begin as scheduled in
March 2011. "Thai Airways has signed the
agreement to take a 51 percent stake and
the Ministry of Finance, which is the majority
stake holder of the Thai flag carrier, has given
its approval," Ampon says.
But Thailand's Transport Minister Sohpon
Zarum and senior managers at Thai
Airways are opposing the plan. Sophon
has questioned the rationale of the LCC
operating lucrative domestic routes like
Bangkok-Phuket and Bangkok-Chiang Mai.
"These routes should only be operated by
airlines wholly-owned by Thais, not by an
airline with a foreign carrier as a partner,"
Sophon says, citing 34 percent stake in
Tiger Airways' parent company held by Thai
Airways rival Singapore Airlines (SIA).
The Ministry's opposition has come as a
surprise, since it has already issued an air
operating certificate to Thai Tiger.
Ampon says he does not see SIA's
involvement as an obstacle. "We should have
been told of these 'problems' before the deal
with Tiger Airways was signed," he adds.
The finance ministry holds 53 percent of
Thai Airways. SIA is controlled by Temasek
Holdings, the Singapore government's
investment arm, as is Dahlia Investments,
which owns 7.7 percent of Tiger.
The Thai Airways-Tiger Airways deal was
signed in August after only one month of
negotiations between the two parties. --
Malaysian low-cost carrier FireFly will embark
on a major five-year expansion plan in
December, when the airline starts operating
jet aircraft out of Kuala Lumpur International
The carrier will initially operate three Boeing
737-400s to Singapore, Kuching, Miri, Sibu
in the east Malaysian state of Sarawak, and
Kota Kinabalu, Labuan and Tawau in Sabah.
The three jetliners are to be released from the
Malaysia Airlines' fleet in October, when the
carrier takes delivery of the first three of 35
Next Generation 737-800s ordered in 2008.
In 2011, five 737-400s will be added to the
FireFly fleet as MAS takes delivery of another
According to a FireFly official, the airline is in
the process of obtaining regulatory approval
to operate to Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, the
Philippines, Taiwan, China and India. The
aircraft will be used to fly to destinations within
five hours' flight time from KLIA.
The official said additional, longer-range
aircraft will be required to operate to some
destinations in India, China, Philippines and
Taiwan. He however declined to elaborate,
citing competitive reasons.
FireFly is taking advantage of the Association
of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) aviation
liberalisation to expand its jet aircraft services.
The ASEAN Open Skies policy, which was
implemented in December 2009, will see
liberalisation continue through to 2015, aiming
to stimulate travel in the region.
The 10-nation Association comprises
Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei, Singapore, Laos,
Vietnam, Myanmar, Indonesia, Philippines and
FireFly's entry into jet operations will heighten
competition in the Southeast Asian, India and
China markets where 13 LCCs already operate,
including AirAsia and its affiliates, Cebu Pacific
Airways, Nok Air, Lion Air, Tiger Airways and
Jetstar Asia Airways.
AirAsia is already under pressure with the
planned start-up of new LCC Thai Tiger
Airways in March 2011 and the rapid expansion
of Lion Air in Indonesia. Thai Tiger, a joint
venture between Thai Airways International and
Singapore-based Tiger Airways Holdings will be
based at Bangkok's Suvarnhabumi Airport.
Shortly after Thai Tiger's announcement,
AirAsia said it was deferring delivery of seven
Airbus A320s for a third time, citing capacity
constraints at the existing LCC terminal at KLIA.
Firefly currently operates seven ATR 72-500
turboprops from Subang Airport, 24km outside
Kuala Lumpur, to domestic destinations as
well as Phuket, Koh Samui, Batam, Medan
and Singapore. In 2011, the airline will take
delivery of three more ATR72-500s, which were
deferred last year due to the global economic
crisis. -- William Dennis
NEWS IN BRIEF
QATAR AIRWAYS will launch flights to Phuket,
Thailand, on 12 October, making the resort island
the second Thai destination for the Doha-based
carrier. Daily flights will be operated via Kuala
Lumpur, using Airbus A330-300 jetliners. Qatar
Airways will be the first Middle Eastern carrier
to offer flights to the popular southern Thai
resort. In further network-expansion moves,
Qatar Air will double its daily flights to Delhi
from 31 October. The following day, the airline
will introduce a third daily non-stop service to
Bangkok using Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, as well
as starting flights to Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi
via Bangkok, operating three and four times a
week, respectively. On 5 November, the carrier's
nine-times weekly Cochin service will be increased
to 11-times weekly.
Thai Tiger faces political opposition
FireFly plans major five-year expansion
FireFly's entry into jet operations
will increase competitive pressure
on Malaysia's biggest LCC, AirAsia.
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