Travellers on Thai AirAsia (TAA) flights between Thailand and China are likely to find at least one Thai cabin attendant greeting passengers with ni hao.
A billboard at Xian airport promotes Thai AirAsia’s flights to Bangkok. The airline has 80-90 Mandarin-speaking crew, all Thais, representing 16% of its flight attendants, whose other language is English.
In-flight announcements in Mandarin have also become standard practice on these flights.
Thailand's largest low-cost carrier is putting more Mandarin-speaking crew on flights in recognition of the fast-growing importance of Chinese travellers.
The airline has 80-90 Mandarin-speaking crew, all Thais, representing more than 16% of its flight attendants, whose other language skill is English.
"Most Chinese travelling with us do not speak and understand other languages, so we are obliged to have Mandarin-speaking crew to serve them," said commercial director Santisuk Klongchaiya.
TAA is constantly looking for more Mandarin-speaking Thai crew as it expands its China coverage and more Chinese embrace its stripped-down service model that was previously unknown to them.
Having Mandarin-speaking crew has made the Thai airline more friendly to Chinese tourists, many of whom still choose Chinese carriers plying the Thailand-China skies because of the availability of Chinese cabin attendants.
TAA decided to build its Mandarin-speaking Thai crew some years ago after its first batch of 20 or so Chinese crew left the airline.
The airline operates 112 round-trip flights on nine routes between Thailand and China, offering 40,320 seats a week.
They are Bangkok-Guangzhou (seven flights a week), Bangkok-Shenzhen (7), Bangkok-Chongqing (14), Bangkok-Wuhan (14), Bangkok-Xian (seven), Bangkok-Hong Kong (21), Bangkok-Macau (28), Chiang Mai-Macau (seven) and Phuket-Hong Kong (seven).
In the first five months of this year, the no-frills carrier carried more than 700,000 Chinese to the kingdom, double the figure for the same period last year.
TAA carried 1.1 million Chinese to and from Thailand last year.
Last year, nearly 3 million Chinese tourists visited Thailand. In the first five months of this year, more than 1.5 million Chinese travelled to the kingdom, constituting the largest number from a single nation _ and the number is growing.
The influx of Chinese is making a huge impact on TAA's passenger traffic outlook. It expects the number of Chinese visitors to reach 5 million in 2018.
The airline is optimistic of meeting its target of 10 million passengers this year, an increase from 8.3 million last year and 6.9 million in 2011.
About the author
- Writer: Boonsong Kositchotethana
Position: Deputy Editor Business