Thai AirAsia: Latest virus outbreak 'destroyed' us
Thai AirAsia (TAA) is dubbing the latest outbreak the worst crisis for aviation in Thailand as airlines face more pressure than during the lockdown last year.
"Travel sentiment has plunged lower than last year. This is different this time because people are voluntarily skipping their travel plans even without a nationwide lockdown order from the government," said Tassapon Bijleveld, executive chairman of Asia Aviation (AAV), the largest shareholder of TAA.
TAA's domestic flight numbers shrank by more than 50% as it had to merge and cancel many flights, with the average load factor taking a nosedive this month.
He said some flights had only 20-30 passengers, a sharp contrast to the resurgent market two months ago.
"We were just rebounding from the first lockdown last year. Despite hardly any profits, at least we could have had a consistent revenue stream from the domestic market. But this outburst of new cases destroyed us," said Mr Tassapon.
Most airlines in Thailand are not in good shape financially as they have received no financial support from the government, particularly the soft loans they have been requesting since last year.
He said most airlines expect the market will continue to be severe in February, which could cause some operators to cease operations. While the government announced new holidays for Chinese New Year next month, the move may not increase domestic trips if people are worried about the outbreak, said Mr Tassapon.
"This could be the quietest Chinese New Year we've ever had," he said.
The eight airlines that teamed up to send the financial aid proposal to the government last year don't have plans to discuss the progress of that proposal as they've already clearly stated their concerns, said Mr Tassapon.
He said the group conveyed all information to the prime minister and three finance ministers, as well as banks that were assigned to help airlines. There has not been any response, said Mr Tassapon.