Nok Air submits petition to continue flights from Phuket

Nok Air submits petition to continue flights from Phuket

Airline seeks to serve sandbox provinces

Nok Air has been granted permission to operate at U-tapao airport until Aug 5.
Nok Air has been granted permission to operate at U-tapao airport until Aug 5.

Nok Air submitted a petition to continue flights from Phuket as most airlines have stopped operations due to the extension of the flight ban.

Nok Air chief executive Wutthiphum Jurangkool said the airline has been granted permission to operate at U-tapao airport until Aug 5, but it sought approval from the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) on Tuesday to serve routes from sandbox provinces to facilitate travellers who need to travel during the lockdown.

Phuket imposed stringent travel restrictions from Aug 3-16 to curb the outbreak on the island.

He said according to the Covid-19 Situation Response Center in Phuket, a relaxation on domestic flights from Phuket to other destinations could be implemented based on the CAAT's decision.

Nok Air demanded the CAAT allow the airline to carry passengers from Phuket to U-tapao airport which will help facilitate those who have difficulty finding connections when all flights and public transport were banned.

Mr Wutthiphum said due to a rigid screening process in Phuket starting on Tuesday, the airline has to fly empty Q400 airplanes to the island and reduce 86-seat capacity to just 43 passengers per flight to meet health safety measures.

It had to increase the frequency to four flights a day as a number of Thais and foreigners who had to travel could not waste time on the overnight shuttle bus which takes more than 12 hours to reach Bangkok.

The airline incurs a loss on each flight.

"Flight time from Phuket to U-tapao in Chon Buri is only 1.2 hours which means passengers have a lower risk from possible virus exposure, while the ventilation system in the cabin is proven to be more clear compared to other modes of transport. If shuttle bus services are allowed to serve passengers from Phuket, airlines should be able to do likewise," he said.

Nok Air is the only airline that shifted its temporary base to U-tapao airport from July 24 after CAAT banned all flights to and from dark red provinces which include Bangkok, forcing every airline to halt domestic operations since July.

Mr Wutthiphum said the airline will have to stop all domestic services from Aug 6 if its petition is not approved.

As a result, it might have to furlough its total workforce of 1,400 as there is no fight operation left in the schedule.

"We still have sufficient liquidity to run until the end of 2021. If creditors approve our rehabilitation plan at the meeting [today], we can submit the plan for court approval on Aug 26 and see restructuring taking place within this year," he said.

Meanwhile, Rak Vorrakitpokatorn, president of Export-Import Bank of Thailand (Exim Bank), said the bank has injected liquidity to Thai Smile Airways and Bangkok Airways and is working on a plan to help AirAsia.

He said Exim Bank would not leave carriers struggling with the financial crisis alone, but each airline will receive financial aid based on its current circumstances as well as its business potential.

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