BANGKOK-BASED long-haul budget airline Thai AirAsia X is spreading its wings overseas to serve tourists going into and out of Thailand.
By the end of this year, the airline will operate direct flights from Bangkok’s Don Mueang International Airport to at least three big cities in South Korea and Japan. On Tuesday it started daily flights to Incheon in South Korea; Tokyo’s Narita and Osaka will be added in September.
The airline is also eyeing other potential long-haul markets with flying times between six and nine hours, including China, Russia, Australia, Eastern Europe and Africa.
The expansion overseas is aimed at luring mainly individual tourists as well as business travellers.
“The airline has received advance bookings that show |average loading factors as high as 75 per cent for the next three months for the Bangkok-Incheon route,” said Nadda Buranasiri, chief executive officer of Thai AirAsia X.
He added that the political turmoil in Thailand should not reflect the carrier’s overseas network expansion, so it had maintained a target of 200,000 passengers for this year and revenue of Bt10 billion.
Thai AirAsia X was established last year to serve budget travellers on long-haul routes with flying times over four hours. It operates under the umbrella of Malaysia’s AirAsia Group, the largest low-cost airline company in Asia. Tassapon Bijleveld, CEO of Thai AirAsia, holds the biggest stake, 40 per cent, in Thai AirAsia X.
The Korea route is served by an Airbus A330-300, which features 377 seats – 12 business class and 365 economy class. The airline is offering online round-trip bookings for the Incheon route at an average of 20-30 per cent lower than regular airlines. Most full-service carriers charge more than Bt16,000, while some premium airlines may be closer to Bt24,000.
More than 400,000 Thais |travelled to South Korea in 2012, 28 per cent more than the previous year. Thais comprise the country’s fifth-largest inbound market and the largest from Southeast Asia. |In the meantime, 1.29 million South Koreans travelled to Thailand that year, for a year-on-year growth rate of 15 per cent. Koreans are in the top five of arrivals in Thailand.
Thai AirAsia operates from Don Mueang to 21 overseas destinations, with 244 flights a day. It also runs 150 flights per day to 14 provinces in Thailand.