Orient Thai focuses on China charters

Orient Thai Airlines has further scaled down its scheduled domestic services to only one route in a move seen as strengthening its charter flight business largely focused on China.

The privately owned carrier terminated its regular Bangkok-Chiang Mai flight on July 1 amid fierce competition on the sector, leaving Bangkok-Phuket as its only active domestic route.

Five Thai airlines _ Thai AirAsia, Nok Air, Thai Airways International, Thai Smile and Bangkok Airways _ operate more than 20 daily flights on the Bangkok-Chiang Mai route.

Orient Thai continues to offer two daily flights on the Bangkok-Phuket route, the other busy domestic route with intense competition, because it supports its China-oriented charter operation in connecting Bangkok with the southern resort island rather than competing head-on with other market players.

"There are Chinese passengers on Orient Thai's charter flights to Bangkok who want to extend their travel to Phuket, which is quite popular among them," said an industry insider.

In another move to underscore its focus on China, Orient Thai recently introduced a scheduled daily flight from Bangkok to Guangzhou, adding to its daily Bangkok-Hong Kong flight.

In recent years, Orient Thai has geared up its charter operation, mainly ferrying tourists from more than 20 Chinese cities to Thailand to avoid competition in scheduled flights on its home turf.

It has also found the charter business more lucrative as Thailand has become a top destination for Chinese travellers.

Orient Thai said it carried about 600,000 Chinese tourists to Thailand last year. It hopes to raise the number to one million this year, nearly 25% of the expected Chinese arrivals.

Chinese represent about 70% of the airline's passenger tally.

The airline is also pursuing other international charter opportunities such as carrying haj pilgrims to Saudi Arabia and serving international missions.

It has nine active Boeing 737 and 767 aircraft in its fleet.

About the author

Writer: Boonsong Kositchotethana
Position: Deputy Editor Business