State help on the radar for 8 airlines

State help on the radar for 8 airlines

Up to B25bn in soft loans will help carriers keep staff and prepare to resume flights

Thai AirAsia planes are grounded at Don Mueang airport due to plunging demand and air travel restrictions after the outbreak of the coronavirus. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
Thai AirAsia planes are grounded at Don Mueang airport due to plunging demand and air travel restrictions after the outbreak of the coronavirus. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

Airlines breathed a sigh of relief on Friday as discussions with the Finance Ministry on 25 billion baht in soft loans yielded positive feedback.

Fiscal Policy Office director-general Lavaron Sangsnit said after a meeting with eight airline operators that the ministry had agreed in principle with the lifeline measures but needs additional details from the carriers.

The eight carriers are Bangkok Airways, Thai AirAsia, Thai AirAsia X, Thai Lion Air, Thai Vietjet Air, Thai Smile, NokScoot and Nok Airlines.

A separate negotiation for the government to provide liquidity support the deeply distressed national carrier, Thai Airways International, is also ongoing.

The ministry will use the outcome of Friday’s talks with the eight airlines in policymaking discussions later, Mr Lavaron said.

The meeting of the two sides, the first since the pandemic began hammering the aviation industry almost three months ago, is sparking hope that the eight airlines wiull be able to survive the crisis, said Nuntaporn Komonsittivate, head of commercial services at Thai Lion Air (TLA).

Although the ministry didn’t nail down the amount of soft lending or the interest rate, all airlines intend to provide more details as requested by authorities, Ms Nuntaporn said.

“We still have to work on a more elaborate financial plan after this meeting, but in principle all airlines are giving priority to airline staff,” she said.

Of the 25 billion baht proposed, TLA has requested 3.75 billion baht for manpower and preparations to restart domestic flights on May 1.

TLA will resume daily flights on routes that connect Don Mueang airport to Chiang Mai, Ubon Ratchathani, Khon Kaen, Surat Thani, Hat Yai and Nakhon Si Thammarat.

Ms Nuntaporn said TLA would operate the flights under stringent health and safety measures, particularly with regard to seat allocation.

Passengers must wear face masks and keep their distance from other passengers. The airline will also refrain from selling food and drink on flights.

Santisuk Klongchaiya, chief executive of Thai AirAsia, said TAA would resume domestic operations from May 1, providing services for guests who need to travel for either personal or business reasons.

The routes to resume service include Don Mueang to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Khon Kaen, Udon Thani, Ubon Ratchathani, Nakhon Panom, Roi Et, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Trang, Hat Yai and Surat Thani, as well as Chiang Mai-Hat Yai.

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