AirAsia move no threat to THAI: minister
Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt insisted yesterday that any further expansion in Thailand by AirAsia, the region's biggest low-cost carrier, would not cramp the Thai national carrier, however local rival Orient Thai was not impressed by the statement.
Udom Tantiprasongchai, chairman of the advisory board at Orient Thai, said the government's move to facilitate AirAsia's request would not be good for the country's image and credibility. The international business community may raise concerns that the country has no rules for doing business here. Any operator in the aviation industry can request a flight slot or route anytime it wants to.
"It's too late for Thailand's aviation industry. It is still weak and is losing opportunities to stronger players, especially AirAsia.
"It can expand its network here whenever it wants. It shows that our country is not tough on regulation,'' he said.
On Wednesday, Tony Fernandes, AirAsia's CEO, met with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to ask if it was possible to increase its flight network here. Thailand would also be promoted as its hub.
After the meeting, Chadchart said the prime minister showed an interest in supporting Thailand as a hub for low-cost carriers in Asean.
The carrier will talk in detail on the issue with Airports of Thailand. In the early stage, the airline expects to help double passengers passing through Don Mueang International Airport, its main base here, from 10 million at present. The airport's maximum capacity is 36 million passengers a year.
"I agree with promoting Thailand as the hub for low-cost carriers. The airport will be used as a centre for other airlines, too, especially chartered services. I am confident that the number of passengers will increase significantly according to AirAsia's expectations,'' he said.
As its customer, AOT will have to welcome AirAsia's opinions to prepare facilities to serve its growth.
He insisted the negotiations would be based on the benefits to both sides.