Betong flights cancelled for lack of interest

Betong flights cancelled for lack of interest

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, centre, and his entourage arrive at Betong airport in Yala on Monday on the inaugural commercial flight, operated by Nok Air. (Government House photo)

Nok Air cancelled its new Bangkok-Betong flights on Wednesday and Friday due to lack of passengers, promised refunds for the few tickets sold and suspended the service.

The budget airline said there had been too little marketing time and consequently the number of passengers booked on the route was smaller than expected, while the operating cost was quite high.

“The cancellation of both flights this week is aimed at reducing risk,” the announcement said. It promised refunds and compensation to customers. The minimum fare was 3,500 baht.

Nok Air said it would organise a press trip to Betong on Friday to promote the service. There were no flights planned on the route until further notice.

It also said it had invited representatives of local tourism and ticketing agents in Betong to a meeting on Monday to seek their support for the new service it had earlier requested.

The airline apologised for the confusion it had caused.

On Monday Nok Air inaugurated the service with a flight from Don Mueang airport to Betong carrying Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and a high-level delegation. The prime minister then officially opened the airport to commercial services.

Early this month Nok Air announced it would also fly between Songkhla’s Hat Yai airport and Betong, in addition to the Bangkok-Betong service. Without air transport, the trip between Hat Yai and Betong takes five hours by road through extensive mountainous terrain.

The 920-rai Betong airport is capable of handling up to 300 passengers an hour or 800,000 a year.

Owned and operated by the Department of Airports, the new airport is about 13 kilometres east of downtown Betong.

The facility has one 1,800-metre runway that can accommodate small, 80-seater turboprops such as the ATR-72 or the Bombardier Q-400. Its passenger terminal covers 7,000 square metres.

Nok Air had planned three scheduled Don Mueang-Betong-Don Mueang flights a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchop says Betong airport has potential to become a regional aviation hub for travel between Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.