KUNMING - Thai AirAsia (TAA) is resuming its expansion into China after a one-year break to consolidate its position over the Thailand-China skies.
TAA chief executive Tassapon Bijleveld shows a fare promotion banner at the announcement of the launch of the Bangkok-Kunming service.
Thailand's largest low-cost carrier (LCC) yesterday announced the launch of its eighth Chinese destination, Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province in southwest China.
The launch of the daily flight, slated for Nov 15, will make TAA the first no-frills carrier to operate on the Bangkok-Kunming route, which is already served by full-service airlines Thai Airways International and China Eastern Airlines.
The last Chinese city to which TAA inaugurated services was Xian on Nov 16 last year.
The airline may link 3-4 more Chinese cities with Thailand over the next year, TAA chief executive Tassapon Bijleveld told the Bangkok Post yesterday. He declined to name the cities but said they would be within flying range of the airline's A320 jets.
The absence of new Chinese destinations over the last year did not mean that TAA's Chinese market had lost its momentum.
"What we did was to consolidate our aircraft to increase flight frequencies, which have proved to have robust demand," Mr Tassapon said.
TAA operates up to 119 flights to China a week with a passenger load of 85%.
Kunming, dubbed the City of Eternal Spring due to its mild weather, has been on TAA's radar screen for a while but is being added to the carrier's list now because of the market's maturity.
"We have been looking at Kunming for a long time, but it is only now that the city and the southwestern region are ready to have us," Mr Tassapon said.
The economy of Kunming and Yunnan province has become more vibrant, while the Chinese government's drive to turn Kunming into a regional aviation hub supports TAA's decision to link Thailand with the city, he added.
Mr Tassapon is upbeat about the Kunming market, expecting to capture a load factor of more than 80% within first three months of the service's launch.
Subject to demand, a second daily Bangkok-Kunming service may be launched six months after the Nov 15 inauguration.
Linking Kunming with other major Thai cities such as Chiang Mai and Phuket is also possible, said Mr Tassapon.
China has been a main focus of TAA and the AirAsia group. The group has served 15 Chinese cities and carried 18 million passengers in and out of China over the past decade. About half of passengers were non-Chinese.
About the author
- Writer: Boonsong Kositchotethana
Position: Deputy Editor Business