Covid-19 vaccinations for airline workers have to proceed within the next two months to be aligned with the tourism sandbox in Phuket aiming for July, says the Airlines Association of Thailand (AAT).
"A tourism rebound will largely depend on the pace of inoculations which can build confidence among both workers and passengers," said Puttipong Prasarttong-Osoth, AAT president.
The AAT consists of seven local airlines; Bangkok Airways, Thai AirAsia, Thai AirAsia X, Thai Smile Airways, Nok Air, Thai Lion Air and Thai Vietjet with a total combined workforce of 16,000.
He said airline operators would like the reopening plan to be implemented within July instead of waiting until October, according to the government plan.
The tourism sandbox which has a clear timeline will allow airlines to prepare for flights to low-risk countries like Singapore, Hong Kong and neighbouring countries.
Mr Puttipong, also Bangkok Airways president, said if the country can reopen by Oct 1, the airline capacity for international routes in December will gradually increase to 20% from zero.
The airline is also considering joining the test run of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Travel Pass, a digital health certificate for international travel.
THAI Airways International and THAI Smile Airways have already joined this project.
He said every local airline may adopt IATA's Travel Pass which will be used globally as a tool, but the entry policy will depend on the government of each country.
Mr Puttipong also suggested the government simplify the redemption method in the air ticket subsidy by applying the same procedures as hotels because people likely book their air tickets first.
Meanwhile, a surge in jet fuel price dealt another blow as airlines must tighten cost-saving strategies and utilise fuel to the fullest, he said.
The AAT already proposed to the Excise Department to maintain jet fuel excise tax at 20 satang per litre until April 2022 as this rate will expire next month.
Nuntaporn Komonsittivate, head of commercial operations at Thai Lion Air, said the government has to accelerate vaccinations for airline employees and introduce a clear roadmap for reopening.
She said tax reduction on jet fuels will help mitigate the impact as this expense accounts for about 20-30% of total operation costs.
Ms Nuntaporn said international flights may come back slowly in the third quarter between countries which Thailand has bilateral agreements with, such as Singapore, Taiwan and China.
On Tuesday, the AAT agreed to jointly work together with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) under the Amazing Thai Travel Fleet campaign to drive domestic trips with hefty promotions.
TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn said the additional two-million room nights in the subsidy campaign was delayed to May as it has to wait for a new face scanning system which will take six weeks to be ready for fraud prevention.