Home' Asian Aviation : AAV Sept 2014 Contents 22 AsianAviation | SEPTEMBER 2014
not, and we found that it's better to be friends with
Those partnerships have always been the
lifeblood of the network, providing Bangkok Airways
with a steady stream of high-yield international
passengers who are willing to pay extra for seamless
connectivity over the Thai capital. Codeshare deals
president, Bangkok Airways.
Long-haul Thai start-up NokScoot brought
forward its launch date by two months this
summer, promising to begin Japanese flights
on 1 September before branching out to other
North Asian countries such as South Korea
The Boeing 777-200ER operator is a
joint venture between two airlines that are
themselves offshoots of regional flag carriers.
Nok Air, the low-cost arm of Thai Airways
International (THAI), owns 51% of the
new company, while the remainder is held
by Singapore International Airlines (SIA)
subsidiary Scoot. Based at Bangkok Don
Mueang International Airport, the start-up will
initially have a three-unit fleet.
But NokScoot will face stiff competition
from established low-cost operator AirAsia,
which already has first-mover advantage in
the fledgling long-haul sector after launching
Bangkok-Seoul flights this June under the
Thai AirAsia X brand. It will also start
serving Japan from Don Mueang Airport in
September, beginning with daily flights to
Tokyo Narita Airport and a five times weekly
service to Osaka Kansai Airport.
The Malaysian-headquartered Group has a
longstanding presence in Thailand through its
regional subsidiary Thai AirAsia, whose chief
executive Tassapon Biljeveld owns 41% of
the new long-haul arm. The remainder of Thai
AirAsia X shares are split between AirAsia
X (49%) and Julpas Kruesopon (10%), an
adviser to former prime minister Thaksin
Thai AirAsia X has a fleet of two
Airbus A330-300s plus one on order.
The company hopes to indirectly benefit from
parallel Japanese expansion by
sister carrier AirAsia X, which will add Kuala
Lumpur-Tokyo Narita flights in November.
Further crowding the low-cost long-haul
marketplace in Thailand is Jet Asia Airways,
a predominantly charter operator based at
Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport. The airline,
which launched services in 2011, recently
signalled a shift towards scheduled flying. It
plans to double its six-strong 767 fleet and
has identified China, Japan and Indonesia as
key growth markets.
Despite the flurry of recent activity,
however, low-cost long-haul flying has a
chequered history. AirAsia X withdrew
from Europe in 2012 after mounting losses,
and Asian operators have since restricted
themselves to medium-haul continental routes.
Cebu Pacific of the Philippines and Jetstar,
a subsidiary of Australia's Qantas, are also
active in the market.
Nonetheless Scoot and AirAsia are
bullish on long-haul. Scoot deploys six 777-
200ERs at Singapore and has orders for
20 Dreamliners. AirAsia X already has a
20-strong widebody fleet and signed for 50
A330-900neos at this year's Farnborough
Air Show. The Group is also establishing an
Indonesian long-haul subsidiary. Success in
Thailand should be a catalyst for much wider
growth across Asia.
Going long on low-cost
have been struck with about a dozen carriers --
mostly big names such as British Airways, Qantas,
Japan Airlines, Etihad and Cathay Pacific -- while
interlining with the likes of Emirates has further
enhanced global sales.
This reliance on connecting traffic has also partly
shielded Bangkok Airways from the country-wide
downturn. "We have seen some slowdown in terms
of passenger bookings," Prasarttong-Osoth admits
when asked about political unrest. "But because of
our network, Bangkok Airways has not been too badly
affected ... For other airlines it might be worse."
He is therefore pressing on with the company's
planned IPO, aiming for a late summer or early
autumn flotation of 20-25% of shares. Funds raised
from the offering will then contribute to the long-
term re newal of the fleet, defending Bangkok
Airways' place in the market for years to come.
Although fast-expanding low-cost carriers attract
the lion's share of publicity in Thailand, three
consecutive years of profitability at Bangkok Airways
underscore how full-service operators still have a
place in the market. With Thai Smile also working
hard to cast aside the legacy constraints of its parent,
the future looks bright at both ends of the spectrum
in this hugely popular tourist destination. ✈
"We don t plan to go for long-haul.
We considered it before, but we
carefully checked if it s feasible or
not, and we found that it s better to
be friends with [long-haul] partners."
president, Bangkok Airways
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