Mandalay next destination for Thai AirAsia
AirAsia will on October 4 add Mandalay to its Thai network - the first service to the quaint Myanmar city from Bangkok - to cash in on its unspoiled ambience and many attractive tourism products.The move is part of the region's biggest low-cost carrier's expansion plan to strength its leadership in the region before the implementation of the Asean Economic Community in 2015.
Tassapon Bijleveld, chief executive officer of Thai AirAsia, said yesterday that the new service with four flights a week was expected to appeal to a range of travellers, both Europeans and locals, especially young workers, backpackers and seniors.
The cabin factor is expected to reach 70-75 per cent in the first three month before increasing to 80-85 per cent.
If facilities such as accommodations and airports are ready, the airline would like to serve more cities in Myanmar such as Nay Pyi Daw and Bagan, besides its three daily flights to Yangon.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) welcomed the launch of the Mandalay route as supporting its plan to promote the region as a single destination, where foreign travellers can hop from city to city. The agency is working with Myanmar authorities on a joint cooperation scheme.
Last year, 110,000 visitors from Myanmar came to Thailand, while 62,000 Thais went to Myanmar. Thai tourists to Myanmar are expected to rise 10 per cent next year and 13 per cent in the following year, according to the TAT.
This year, Thai AirAsia is playing an increasing role in the region via its network expansion, with Bangkok-Mandalay its seventh new route. The firm is also looking for new cities to add to its portfolio before 2015 including in Laos and Vietnam. The Philippines and Laos are the only two nations in the region outside its reach.
Its fleet will grow from 24 passenger aircraft to 27 by year-end.
The Asean market has remained vibrant because of its members' prosperity compared with Europe, which is in economic trouble. However, foreign travellers from Europe will be on the rise because Asia, including Thailand, is still reasonable cost-wise, Tassapon said. Also, European tourists like to explore cultural aspects of new cities in the region, especially in Myanmar.
On October 1, Thai AirAsia plans to start operating both domestically and internationally from Don Mueang Airport. The move from Suvarnabhumi Airport is 50 per cent ready now and should be on time.
There are no plans to diversify into a non-aviation business at Don Mueang. The company will only run its airline and will make it the best carrier possible, he said.