Airline staff are looking forward to Thailand November …


By Chayut Setboonsarng and Juarawee Kittisilpa

BANGKOK, Oct.28 (Reuters) – From engineers to pilots, Thailand’s aviation industry is gearing up for a grand reopening on Monday when the tourism-dependent country welcomes vaccinated arrivals without quarantine, ending nearly 19 months of entry rules strict.

“This is something everyone is looking forward to,” said Puttipong Prasarttong-Osoth, chairman of the Thai Airlines Association, which has seven members, including Thai Smile Airways, Thai AirAsia and Thai VietJet Air.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha this month announced that vaccinated arrivals from 46 countries would be allowed to enter without quarantine from November.

Airlines responded quickly, bringing back hibernation or long-term parking jets, where they were kept with their engines covered for protection and down systems.

“It’s in our DNA, it’s easy to come back and re-integrate,” said Banyat Hansakul, Thai AirAsia’s engineering manager, referring to the routine of preparing the planes. “It’s like riding a bicycle.”

Thai AirAsia was already using 10 jets from its fleet of 60, while Bangkok Airways flew 13 planes out of a total of 38, mostly for domestic travel after a pilot project that reopened the islands of Phuket and Samui in July.

Both airlines expect to use more planes in the coming months, planning more trips with passengers from neighboring Cambodia, Singapore and Malaysia as restrictions ease.

The national airline Thai Airways International Pcl has set up a winter program with connections from Bangkok to London, Munich, Sydney and Tokyo.

Although optimism about the initial number of tourist arrivals is tempered, as other countries still observe quarantine measures, Thai AirAsia pilot Wirote Teerawattananon, 30, said he was satisfied.

“I’m happy to get back on the plane, the tourists are coming back, so we can get back to work,” he said.

Thailand welcomed around 40 million foreign arrivals in 2019. This year the government is targeting just 100,000.

COVID-19 has cost Thailand, one of Asia’s most popular destinations, around $ 50 billion in tourism revenue per year. Its airlines also suffered heavy losses.

Thai Airways and its low cost subsidiary Nok Air Pcl undergoing bankruptcy protected restructuring -plan-2021-06- 15. Another airline, NokScoot, went into liquidation last year

“I am really looking forward to the return of the foreigners,” said Kohchamon Pithayapipat, crew member of Thai AirAsia. “Foreign spending can provide income even for small and medium-sized businesses.” (Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng; Editing by Karishma Singh)

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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