Nok Air is ushering in a new era in its eight-year history by deploying brand-new jetliners as it attempts to mitigate problems related to unexpected engine breakdowns involving used aircraft.
Nok Air’s sixth B737-800, named ‘Nok Baitoey’, joined the growing fleet last week.
The budget airline agreed to lease two new Boeing 737-800s from GE Capital Aviation Service, the US-based aircraft lessor, for delivery next April. Nok usually leases used aircraft because it is cheaper.
"The costs associated with unexpected engine breakdowns are becoming prohibitive. It may be more worthwhile for us to use brand-new aircraft that come with a warranty," said Nok Air president Patee Sarasin.
Engine breakdowns on two seven-year-old B737-800s prompted the airline to embrace the new leasing option.
Leasing costs for new jets and those with 5-6 years in service are not so different, said Mr Patee, though he would not provide figures.
However, an airline insider said leasing a new B737-800 would cost about US$350,000 a month, compared with $280,000 for a similar type of single-aisle jetliner with 5-6 years of service.
Nok Air will not retire its current B737-800s. The airline would rather honour those lease contracts, which run for 5-8 years, Mr Patee said.
The airline last week took delivery of its sixth B737-800 leased from SMBC Aviation Capital, adding to its three "classic" B737-400s and two ATR72 turboprops deployed on secondary routes.
Nok Air's seventh leased B737-800 is due later this month.
The B737-800 has been the mainstay of Nok Air's fleet over the past 4-5 years as it fits well with its business model in terms of size (189 seats) and flight operating range of about four hours.
Deploying new aircraft will give Nok Air the chance to feature the jets in its image-lifting exercise in the same way as rival Thai AirAsia has done with its "red plate" campaign for its Airbus 320 jets _ all new and now numbering 27.
Meanwhile, Mr Patee offered a more specific timeframe for its relaunch of international flights, which will happen in the second quarter of next year, rather than early next year, due to aircraft availability issues.
Three cities in neighbouring countries, including southern China, within a flying range of three hours from Nok Air's Don Mueang airport hub, are on the radar screen for launching next year, he said.
Nok Air will introduce its longest service so far _ Chiang Mai-Hat Yai _ on Jan 1 as well as offering a notable increase of 11 daily flights on its existing eight domestic trunk routes to cash in on high-season traffic.
From Dec 1, the airline stepped up flights from Don Mueang to Chiang Rai to three flights a day from two, to Chiang Mai to nine from six, to Udon Thani to five from four, to Ubon Ratchathani to four from three, and to Hat Yai to seven from five.
From Jan 1, its flights from Don Mueang to Phuket will increase to three a day from two, to Nakhon Si Thammarat to five from four, and to Surat Thani to four from three.
About the author
- Writer: Boonsong Kositchotethana
Position: Deputy Editor Business