Thai AirAsia X ramps up Australian flights
Angela Macdonald PSM, Australian ambassador to Thailand, second from left, and Mr Tassapon at the launch of Thai AirAsia X’s direct flights from Bangkok to Melbourne and Sydney, Australia.
With a lack of inbound flights still posing a challenge for tourism, Thai AirAsia X is planning two new routes to Australia and one to India to increase seat capacity, as the markets have shown signs of recovery following the lifting of all travel restrictions.
As of July, the number of outbound tourists from Australia reached 3.83 million, while the inbound market stood at 3.94 million. Air traffic has grown stronger since the Australian government ended all travel restrictions on July 6.
Tassapon Bijleveld, chief executive of Thai AirAsia X, said there were almost 800,000 Australian tourists visiting Thailand each year before the pandemic, while the Thai outbound market stood at around 100,000 as Australia was the third most popular educational destination among Thai students.
“Out of the Australian population of 25.7 million, 21.4 million were taking outbound trips each year. We saw an opportunity in this market before Covid-19, but could not enter it due to a lack of available slots. After opening this route in December this year, we intend to maintain services in the long run, with an average load factor of at least 85-90%,” said Mr Tassapon.
Thai AirAsia X will commence direct services to Melbourne on Dec 1 with three flights a week, and to Sydney on Dec 3 with four flights a week.
It also plans to open a route to New Delhi in India in the third quarter after air traffic rights between the two countries were increased.
Average airfares on those routes would be at least 15% lower than those of its competitors.
By the end of this year the airline will be flying six aircraft, which represents a gradual improvement from its current usage of only three planes. During the pandemic it cut its fleet to eight jets, from 15, in an effort to reduce fixed costs.
The airline aims to carry 300,000 passengers, mainly driven by routes to South Korea and Japan.
Mr Tassapon said momentum in the final quarter might be lifted by further relaxation of Japanese travel restrictions. At present, all inbound flights to Japan have been restricted to 75% capacity, which is one of the measures for the control of Covid-19.
If there are no more entry requirements, Thai AirAsia X will increase flights to Tokyo to one or two daily flights, from four flights per week at present.
“As the tourism industry is a vital mechanism to cushion the economic impact amid inflation and a weak currency, it’s hard for any country to remain closed in the long run,” Mr Tassapon said.
He added that even though the oil price has been falling recently, the Airlines Association of Thailand will ask the Finance Ministry to extend its fuel tax cut until next year as this cost still makes up nearly 30% of total operational costs.