Thai airlines scramble for survival

The Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok.

Thailand-based airlines are struggling to survive from the low blow of the 2019 novel coronavirus, with carriers now offering tweaked airfare promotions and laying off some of their employees to reduce expenses.

Flag carrier Thai Airways International Public Co. Ltd., for instance, is now slashing airfares to steer the market and offering free domestic tickets to foreign passengers. This came following the dramatic drop in passenger volume drop amid travel fears over the virus outbreak.

As part of its efforts to reduce expenses, Nok Scoot cut the number of pilots and crew members by 11 and 36, respectively. Its parent firm Nok Air told four pilots to leave the company and reduced the per diem allowance—the bonus given for overseas trips—of some 500 pilots and crew members to offset the impact of the virus. Nok Air has tried many attempts to tighten costs.

On fare promotions, Nok Air offered one-way domestic fares at 680 baht for travel this month.

Low-cost carrier Thai AirAsia is providing foreign tourists of a 100-baht-discount on domestic routes within a designated period, while Thai Vietjet Air marked down by 50 percent all routes across Thailand.

Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT) President Chairat Trirattanajarasporn believed that losses to be incurred will be larger than the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s (TAT) projection of 250 billion baht, assuming that the virus lasts longer than six months.

“Operators are ready to comply with stimulus plans from the authorities to secure at least 36 million international tourists this year. But the government has to think and act faster than this, or most businesses will collapse because of the impact,” he said.

In March, TAT and Thai Airways are set to launch the “Amazing Flight, Amazing Thailand” campaign at the ITB Berlin 2020, and Thai Airways is expected to offer 10,000 discounted tickets to Thailand for travel from May to October 2020. It will also include a roundtrip ticket for a local route with both Thai Airways and Thai Smile.

“We’ll start with 10,000 tickets. If the feedback is good TAT will talk with THAI about increasing the number of sale tickets,” TAT deputy governor of marketing communications Tanes Petsuwan said.

Petsuwan said both parties poured in some 30 million baht for the program but expected to generate 500-million-baht in sales.