Short-haul carrier to be launched by Thai Airways

Plans to establish a new, full-service, short-haul carrier will be commenced by Thai Airways International. It hopes to start operating early next year. The plan was approved by the airline’s board last May 20, Friday.

This new airline, which will be based in Bangkok and will operate under a new sub-brand, will be a business unit of Thai Airways and will operate domestically and on short-haul international routes using 11 aircraft, it says. The aim is for it to differentiate itself in the marketplace with a new image and price differentiation, says Thai.

Thai Airways executive VP commercial, Teerapol Chotichanapibal, told Aviation Week last October that the national carrier was working to establish a new full-service carrier on short-haul routes. He said this outfit would replace Thai Airways’ Boeing 737-400 mainline operation.

This strategy is similar Singapore Airlines’ (SIA), he conceded. The Singapore national carrier’s widebody operation uses the SIA brand, but its narrowbody operation is marketed under the Silkair brand. SIA has two brands because it felt that its narrowbody operation was unable to provide the same level of comfort and, therefore, unable to deliver on the SIA brand promise.

Chotichanapibal said starting a new full-service airline means the operation will no longer be saddled with the relatively high cost structure inherent in the mainline business.

He also said it means Thai Airways can focus on operating widebodies and deliver a more consistent level of service. Chotichanapibal added, Thai Airways’ five Boeing 737-400s will be phased out and Thai will try to assign these older aircraft to Thai Airways’ low-cost carrier Nok Air. The new short-haul carrier will operate new narrowbody aircraft, said Chotichanapibal.

Thai Airways Chairman Ampon Kittiampon told journalists in Bangkok Friday that the new carrier, tentatively named Thai Wings, would start flying in March or April and will operate 737s. But he stopped short of saying if these will be 737-400s or 737-800s.

In a separate development, Thai Airways announced last year that it would launch a new Bangkok-based low-cost carrier, Thai-Tiger, in joint-venture partnership with Singapore’s Tiger Airways. It said the new low-cost carrier would start flying in May, but Kittiampon told journalists that the launch has been delayed by two to three months. Thai-Tiger is still waiting for approval from Thailand’s transport minister, Sophon Zarum, who said last year he opposes the tie-up.

-aviationweek.com

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