Thai AirAsia (TAA) is zeroing in on China as part of an aggressive growth plan over the next few years, planning to add four or five Chinese cities a year to its Thailand-China network.
TAA’s Tassapon Bijleveld and two cabin attendants pose with cutouts of Terracotta Warriors at yesterday’s launch of the new Bangkok-Xi’an service.
Tassapon Bijleveld, chief executive of Thailand's biggest low-cost carrier, yesterday unveiled a China-focused strategy that seems to eclipse TAA's expansion in Asean and India.
China's growing love affair with foreign travel, higher disposable income among Chinese and the country's open sky policy are offering TAA a huge opportunity to tap, he said.
There is less room for TAA to expand its network further in the 10 nations of Southeast Asia, as the airline has already covered 80-90% of cities with good traffic demand, said Mr Tassapon.
Only a few major cities remain missing from TAA's Asean coverage _ Siem Reap in Cambodia, Vientiane in Laos and Manila in the Philippines.
Meanwhile, TAA's bid to expand into India, which featured prominently in its growth plan about two years ago, has faced several restrictions such as securing traffic rights from Indian authorities.
TAA's focus on China has already begun in earnest with the inauguration of flights to Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province in central China, and Xi'an, a historical city in central China famous for its Terracotta Army, on Oct 19 and Nov 16, respectively.
TAA has operated flights from Bangkok to Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Chongqing since earlier this year in addition to frequent flights from the capital to Hong Kong and Macau.
A major force behind TAA's China pursuit is an increase in aircraft capacity as five additional A320 jets will next year join TAA's all-A320 fleet, now comprising 25 aircraft.
Chinese have made up 11% of TAA's passengers this year, the largest international group.
The airline also wants to focus on more frequent flights for existing routes over the next 15 months.
TAA expects to carry 8 million passengers this year and 10 million next year.
About the author
- Writer: Boonsong Kositchotethana
Position: Deputy Editor Business