THAI Smile begins joint Vientiane operations
THAI Smile began flying to Vientiane from Bangkok on Saturday as part of a joint operation with its parent Thai Airways International (THAI).
THAI Smile is operating the daily flight to the Laos capital with the narrow-body Airbus A320-200 jets configured with two seating versions -- 166 and 174 seats, depending on which aircraft is deployed.
In theory, the five-year-old regional airline's new route enhances the long-standing Bangkok-Vientiane service rendered by THAI. But THAI Smile's descent to Vientiane is consistent with the parent's strategy for its sister airline to take over its short-haul regional routes, which for THAI Smile's smaller single-aisle aircraft are more viable.
THAI will continue operating its A330-300 wide-body jets, with around 300 seats, on its Bangkok-Vientiane route daily, according to airline insiders.
Although THAI Smile will use its own A320 for the new Bangkok-Vientiane service, the flight will be operated with THAI Smile's "WE" and THAI's "TG" codes at the same time.
It was agreed that 90% of seats on the flights operated by THAI Smile aircraft will be sold with TG codes with the remaining 10% using the WE code, said the insiders. That means, along with THAI's wide-body flight with TG codes, the huge majority of seats on the route will be known to belong to THAI.
The coding agreement is interpreted to overcome the technical constraints imposed by the Laos civil aviation authorities, which have been reluctant to allow THAI to transfer traffic rights on the route to THAI Smile, or sharing the rights with both airlines at the same time.
Laos has continued to restrict the number of flights and capacities to its capital and has put on hold requests for additional services by airlines such as the Thai AirAsia, which wants to double its daily service.
Vientiane will be become the second port-of-call for THAI Smile after Luang Prabang, which it started last year.
THAI Smile is offering introductory one-way fare of 2,780 baht, inclusive of taxes and fees, for the Vientiane flight, valid for travel from July 1 to Oct 28.