TAAX aims to spread wings
Thai AirAsia X (TAAX) is getting ready to embark on a significant expansion after a hiatus caused by aviation safety issues related to Thai regulators.
Thailand's first medium-to-long-haul low-cost carrier (LCC) will add at least three new Airbus A330-300 widebody jets to its current six-aircraft fleet, introducing more North Asian routes and debuting flights to Europe and Australia.
All these plans are most likely to be activated next year after the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) officially removes the punitive restrictions on Thailand's international flights, TAAX chief executive Nadda Buranasiri yesterday told the Bangkok Post.
Thai authorities and the industry are hopeful the UN agency, whose officials are here in Bangkok to begin auditing the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand, will agree to remove the red flag in the coming weeks.
Since June 2015, Thai-registered airlines have been restricted to expanding their international flights as ICAO discovered "significant safety concerns" in the Thai Civil Aviation Authority's regulatory regime and practices.
"It's a long time coming," said Mr Nadda, referring to the freeze on TAAX's expansion, which has hampered the airline's growth.
TAAX is one of a few major Thai-registered airlines whose expansion plans are shaping up on the prospects of ICAO unlocking the restrictions.
"Clearly we want to cover more of China, South Korea and Japan, and we are intensely looking at inaugurating flights down under and in Europe," he said.
He said TAAX remains eager to resume its short-lived regular service to Sapporo, operated briefly in mid-2015, as the top priority once the red flag is removed.
TAAX hopes to reactivate the Bangkok-Sapporo service by year-end, operating with a daily frequency, said Mr Nadda.
The re-issuance of an air operator certificate to TAAX in June has already helped increase the airline's flight profile in Japan, he said.