Tier-two cities urged for Asean airlines

Tier-two cities urged for Asean airlines

Pitch to deal with travel industry growth

Arkhom Termpittayapaisith (fifth from left) is shown at a seminar in Bangkok on Monday on Advancing the Asean Single Aviation Market.
Arkhom Termpittayapaisith (fifth from left) is shown at a seminar in Bangkok on Monday on Advancing the Asean Single Aviation Market.

The Transport Ministry will propose airlines in Asean countries operate direct flights to secondary cities in Thailand to cope with travel industry growth.

Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said he will put forward the suggestion to Asean transport ministers at a meeting later this year and ask airline operators in the region to operate direct services from their countries to secondary Thai cities.

Thailand has unofficially raised the topic with some Asean ministers ahead of the Asean Transport Ministers Meeting and Asean Senior Transport Officials Meeting, both of which will be convened in Thailand this year.

Air route expansions aim to support growing intra-region travel and the increase of arrivals from the region, particularly China.

Speaking at a conference in Bangkok yesterday on "Advancing the Asean Single Aviation Market", Mr Arkhom said the secondary provinces the ministry would promote to become aviation hubs include Khon Kaen and Udon Thani in the Northeast; Krabi, Ranong, Chumphon and Samui in the South; and Mae Sot in the West.

"This year will be the first time Asean airlines focus on secondary cities," he said.

The ministry plans to use Betong airport, which is under construction in Yala province in the South, as a gateway for air travel between Thailand and Malaysia.

The government is engaging in several projects to prepare for the long-term growth of the aviation industry, including expanding Suvarnabhumi airport and the aircraft maintenance and training centre at U-tapao airport, Mr Arkhom said.

To ensure the aviation industry has sufficient manpower, Kasetsart University is set to become a leading institution for aerospace and aviation studies.

Sarinee Angusingha, president of Aeronautical Radio of Thailand Co, said over 1.1 million flights will come in and out Thailand this year. The total is expected to exceed 2 million over the next 10 years and 3 million flights per year in two decades.

To prepare for the surge in growth, the company is hiring a British firm to conduct aviation management. A final study will be submitted to the company this year.

At the seminar, Thai AirAsia chief executive Tassapon Bijleveld said if Asean countries can agree on further connectivity to tier-two cities and endorse a single visa, the number of arrivals into Thailand will spike. He said Thai AirAsia plans to fly to all Thai airports. The budget airline already has flights from Thailand to 35 overseas destinations. It flies to 21 destinations domestically and operates 1,293 flights a week in total globally.

Last year it carried 19.8 million passengers, half from Southeast Asia. That number is expected to hit 23.2 million this year as it added seven new aircraft.

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