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Southeast Asia airlines look to India

  • Suchat Sritama

    The Nation/ANN

Bangkok   /   Fri, June 17, 2016   /  05:26 pm
Southeast Asia airlines look to India A Thai Airways international passenger plane taxis its way to a terminal at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok. (AP/-)

Following India's open-skies policy allowing more airlines to fly into and out of the country, more airlines including Thai Airways and Singapore Airlines, are seen to benefit from it.

Major airlines and tourism authorities are eager to cash in on the India market after that country's government unveiled an open-skies policy to allow more airlines operate into and out of India.

Thai Airways International, Singapore Airlines and AirAsia are expected to benefit from the policy in one of the world’s fastest-growing markets.

Narongchai Wongthanavimok, chief financial officer at THAI, said the airline was considering a network expansion or increasing frequencies for India routes. However, it is more likely to increase the number of flights rather than opening new routes.

“Thai Airways is considering India as part of our network expansion. We may increase frequencies because Bangkok is great hub for [service to] the subcontinent. We will not open new routes at this stage,” Narongchai said.
Currently THAI operates to Kolkata, New Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore.

THAI executive board members on Wednesday agreed to push Bangkok as the aviation hub for Southeast Asia. The airline will increase frequencies of existing flights including Bangkok-Manila and Bangkok-Jakarta. The plan will help the airline to cash in connecting passengers travelling from the Middle East, India and Europe.

Meanwhile at Thai AirAsia X, an executive of the long-haul low-cost carrier said it looked at India market for as believed a lot of tourists and business travelers.

Thai AirAsia X currently operates from Bangkok to Seoul, Tokyo, Osaka, Shanghai, Muscat, and Tehran while AirAsia X Malaysia operates Kuala Lumpur-Kolkata.

The Straits Times reported that the Indian move would benefit Singapore Airlines and AirAsia, two of Southeast Asia’s biggest airlines, and had the potential to attract new investments from Middle Eastern carriers such as Emirates and Etihad Airways.

“More may enter the market, leading to potential consolidation among local carriers,” said Amber Dubey, an aerospace consultant at KPMG in Gurgaon near New Delhi.

The Indian government also decided on Wednesday to allow domestic airlines to fly overseas provided they deploy 20 planes or 20 percent of their capacity, whichever is higher, on local routes. Earlier, carriers needed to have a minimum of 20 aircraft in their fleet and five years of domestic services.

Air travel in the South Asian country grew by more than 20 percent last year, according to the International Air Transport Association. In comparison, passenger traffic in China rose by about 10 per cent and by less than 5 per cent in the United States, IATA said in a December presentation.

Local air traffic in India increased even faster at more than 23 per cent in the first four months of 2016, according to data from the country’s Directorate-General of Civil Aviation.

Juthaporn Rerngronasa, Tourism Authority of Thailand deputy governor for marketing to Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas, said TAT had been working with major airlines to bring in tourists from India.

The agency has promoted Thailand as a luxury destination for Indian tourists as well as a wedding venue and honeymoon destination. Thailand will host the fourth annual Destination Wedding Planners Congress from May 2-4, 2017.

Emirates this week said it would help TAT boost high-end tourism.

Airports of Thailand said it planned to spend 194 billion baht (US$5.5 billion) on its international airports in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phuket and Hat Yai in order to increase capacity and enhance the country as a regional aviation hub.

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