Airlines seek meeting with Prayut

Airlines seek meeting with Prayut

A view inside Suvarnabhumi airport at 5pm on Monday. The number of travellers has fallen by half since the virus outbreak. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
A view inside Suvarnabhumi airport at 5pm on Monday. The number of travellers has fallen by half since the virus outbreak. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

Seven airlines are seeking to meet Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to ask about the government's stand on their request for long-awaited soft loans.

The Thai Airlines Association said on Wednesday it would like to discuss with Gen Prayut any progress on the proposal, which if granted, would throw domestic carriers their much-needed financial lifeline.

Seven local airlines -- Thai AirAsia and Thai AirAsia X, Bangkok Airways, Nok Air, Thai Smile Airways, Thai Lion Air and Thai Vietjet Air -- have sought 14 billion baht in soft loans to sustain their operations. Even that sum was a substantial reduction on the 24 billion baht they requested last year.

The meeting would be a follow-up session from the previous meeting the airlines had with the prime minister on Aug 28 last year. Wutthipong Prasartthong-osod, the association president and its executives, decided to also ask about the loans in writing.

The association said the bottom line for Thai-based domestic airlines has changed for the worse since their last meeting with the prime minister.

The current, third outbreak of Covid-19 has resulted in airlines cutting back on flights, biting deeper into their revenue.

The airlines were also having to endure the heavy expenses from operating the remaining flights and paying their staff. The loans would help mitigate the impact on airlines and buoy the country's tourism.

The association also called on the government to provide vaccinations to airline staff who are frontline personnel in the tourism industry.

In February, Finance Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith responded with many reservations to calls for soft loans. The Export-Import Bank of Thailand (Exim Bank) was asked to devise a financial measure to help the airlines.

Providing soft loans to airlines or bringing such business loans under the Public Service Account meant the Finance Ministry had to shoulder the difference between market interest and soft loan interest, the minister said.



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