The airline issued this statement after it cancelled its Don Mueang-Betong flights on Wednesday, one day after the airport was officially opened on March 14.
The original plan was for Nok Air to fly three times a week – Monday, Wednesday and Friday – from Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport. It allocated its Bombardier Dash 8-Q400 aircraft, which can carry 86 passengers, for the route.
Teerapol Chotichanapibal, Nok Air’s chief commercial officer, said the bookings were far fewer than expected even though the airline’s announcement of the new route received a good response among customers and agents.
However, he admitted that the drop in bookings may partly be due to the surge in daily Covid-19 cases which affected customers’ confidence.
“The drop in sales is why the airline had to cancel its flights,” he said, adding that Nok Air first needs to spend the next two or three months promoting Betong as a tourist destination.
He said the airline aims to attract 5 per cent of the local tourist market by offering flights for as little as 3,500 baht and also hopes to draw Malaysian tourists once the border reopens on April 1.
“We urge the government to guarantee 75 per cent of revenue for the first six months, so the airline does not suffer too much of a loss,” he said.
Meanwhile, Betong Tourism Business Association vice president Narin Ruengwongsa said the association will meet Nok Air and tour agencies on Monday to discuss marketing strategies and pricing.
“The tourism sector in Betong expects Nok Air to start Don Mueang-Betong flights from April 1 in line with Malaysia’s border reopening plans and the Qingming festival,” he said.
He added that travellers from Malaysia and Singapore are expected to flood in once the border is reopened.
More than 600,000 Malaysian and Singaporean tourists had visited Yala before the Covid-19 pandemic emerged in 2019, he said.
Separately, Betong Hotel Club president Phruek Wongnamroj expects the price of hotel rooms to rise by 30 to 40 per cent if Nok Air starts flying to Betong and Malaysia reopens its border.
"We expect more Thais to also visit Betong once flights start running,” he said, adding that Betong will also benefit from tourism stimulus measures such as Rao Tiew Duay Kan (We Travel Together) and Tour Tiew Thai schemes.
Published : March 20, 2022
By : THE NATION