Home' Asian Aviation : AAV October 2011 Contents 46 AsianAviation | OCTOBER 2011
Nok Air CEO Patee Sarasin
Thai low-cost carrier Nok Air operates from Bangkok’s Don Muang airport to 21 domestic destinations, using a fleet of
Boeing 737-400 jetliners and ATR 72-200 turboprops. Pat Brennan spoke with Chief Executive Officer Patee Sarasin
on the sidelines of July’s Aviation Outlook Summit in Sydney.
Q: We understand that you are about
to upgrade your jet fleet from leased
Boeing 737-400s to the -800NG
PS: That’s right we currently have 10 -400’s, but from
November of this year will commence the program of
replacing all aircraft to the -800NG, which will have their
C- and D-checks performed by Lufthansa Technik.
Q: How will Nok Air be affected by
your 39-percent shareholder Thai
Airways International’s plans to set
up a new low-cost carrier (LCC),
Thai Wings, with Singapore’s Tiger
PS: Thai International has a strateg y to create an ultra -
LCC in partnership with Singapore’s Tiger Airways.
Thai Wings, as it is called, is aimed primarily at the
regional market and, as such, we do not feel that we will
be adversely affected. At this point, nothing firm has b e en
established and with the recent events in Australia with
the local Tiger brand, we se e progress on establishing
Thai Wings as progressing at a slow pace.
Q: Having previously operated
international routes, do you
anticipate that you might again enter
the regional market?
PS: Never say never, but at this time we are focused
purely as a domestic carrier. Our previous experience in
flying to Hanoi was successful, though our experience in
flying to India was less so. This was due to an inability
to fly ETOPS [extended-range twin-engine operations]
aircraft, which drove our costs too high, as well as the
difficulties in working through the established ag ency
sales process. For now, we want to learn from our
experiences and go from there.
In five years time, we may consider options to enter the
regional market – though the existing price war would
sugg est this is a difficult field.
Q: What is the current level of
staffing and do you find any
difficulty in recruiting and retaining
PS: We currently have 1,200 staff and no, we have no
problem in recruiting personnel. Our turnover is so low
as to be negligible. We are seen as an attractive employer
of choice. We enjoy a harmonious relationship with our
staff and have not experienced any industrial problems.
Q: You are known as a carrier that
has a light-hearted, fun brand,
which is reflected in your customer
base. How has this affected your
PS: Without doubt, we have built our brand and
values to represent a fun airline to travel with. We have
established ourselves as the number one carrier to many
places, with Hat Yai being an example. Our use of mobile
technology and video conferencing has also allowed us to
build a temporary monopoly with these new sales tools.
Our smart phone sales alone are currently accounting
for between 5 percent and 10 percent of ticket sales per
month, and that’s after only six months.
Q: Are you managing to maintain
market share, despite adverse
effects such as rising fuel costs?
PS: Yes. We have found that our brand loyalty has enabled
us to be flexible with our pricing , to accommodate
changes in the price of fuel without impacting our market
share. At this point we are the number one domestic
carrier and have bet ween 38 percent and 40 percent of
the domestic market.
Q: How do you distinguish your
company from its competitors
and how do you plan to build the
PS: We see our use of technolog y as a leading sales
difference. We also have a monopoly into certain
locations and have innovative partnerships with boat
companies to take passengers to the tourist islands. We
are ver y much involved with community events and
sponsoring rock concerts. We have built the brand with
the target community in mind and it is working well.
Q: Is Nok Air hoping to form
partnerships with other carriers that
might provide additional business
PS: We can see that there are opportunities for us to align
ourselves with other carriers and provide them – and us
– with an increased market share. At this point in time,
25 million Thai people have flown, out of a population
of 65 million . Nok Air, through building our brand and
winning the hearts of the people, will be in a position to
exploit the continued growth in domestic traffic, which
offers huge opportunities for well-aligned carriers.
We may have a long-haul alliance, or even think of
long-haul flights ourselves. But, for now, we will watch
the market and the fate of others, and continue doing
what we do well.
Nok Air plans to upgrade its 737 fleet to -800NG models.
“ We may have a long-haul alliance, or even think of long-haul
flights ourselves.” – Nok Air CEO Patee Sarasin
30/09/11 9:33 PM
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