Airlines facing new turmoil

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A notice board shows flights canceled at Suvarnabhumi Airport on Sunday following CAAT’s decision to suspend flights. Wichan Charoenkiatpakul

Airlines brace for further turbulence as the new wave of infections depresses the prospects of recovery, while urging the government to step up the vaccination program to end the crisis.

Bangkok Airways chairman Puttipong Prasarttong-Osoth said the airline had to wait for an update on the situation that raised more concern than the second wave at the end of last year.

In the meantime, airlines must adapt quickly and comply with government guidelines.

Recently, the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) announced the suspension of all domestic flights between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m., while asking airlines to adopt social distancing for passengers.

Mr Puttipong, who is also president of the Airlines Association of Thailand, said there was an urgent need to bring in as many doses of the vaccine as possible, whether by the government or the private sector, to stem the ‘epidemic and continue with the Phuket sandbox – the reopening scheme for international travelers.

If the government can control the last wave within a month, the industry may not be badly affected.

“Layoffs are the last resort for airlines, as it will be more difficult to recruit new staff when air transport rebounds in the next 3-6 months,” Puttipong said.

Thai Lion Air (TLA) chief commercial officer Nuntaporn Komonsittivate said the tourism industry has not fully recovered from the previous outbreak.

The latest outbreak reduced demand during Songkran, leading to a load factor of around 60-63%, down from the 85% level expected before the last high rate of infections.

The average load factor in April is expected to close at 60%. He must also adjust flight frequencies on a daily basis and comply with CAAT regulations.

Ms Nuntaporn said the airline needs to closely monitor government and individual province policies as well as load factor changes in order to plan its day-to-day operations.

Passenger numbers are expected to drop significantly after the Songkran Festival, especially after the spike in new cases triggered stricter travel policies.

In a worst-case scenario, TLA could potentially reduce flight frequencies to just 10 to 20 flights per day, as seen in January due to the second outbreak.

“The government needs to speed up the immunization process because vaccines are the light at the end of the tunnel, which helps improve not only the tourism sector, but also the livelihoods of everyone in the country,” Ms. Nuntaporn said. .

Meanwhile, Woranate Laprabang, managing director of Thai Vietjet, said CAAT’s flight suspension after 11 p.m. affected about 5-8% of total flights. The airline wants the order to be lifted as soon as the situation improves.

“We still hope that the government will understand how the airlines have been affected by the epidemic and offer support in the form of concessional loans to the airlines,” he said.



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