Reopening process must be safe, says Nok Air

Reopening process must be safe, says Nok Air

The government should ensure communities reopening to tourism are safe before allowing domestic and international arrivals to resume next month because it could lead to increased risks during the high season, according to an airline.

"Even though airlines are desperate for domestic travel to resume and tourism subsidy campaigns to roll out in October, we'd like the government to evaluate the situation thoroughly to prevent the risk of another breakout and lost opportunities during the high season if a fourth wave erupts," said Nok Air chief executive Wutthiphum Jurangkool.

He said domestic tourism stimulus schemes should start in November after more people are vaccinated, bringing down the infection curve.

The government hinted this week the emergency decree might be lifted by the end of this month, which would mean airlines may not have to conduct semi-commercial flights that have more limitations than normal operations.

Mr Wutthiphum said the government should bring back to the table travel bubbles or bilateral dialogue to help screen inbound arrivals from safe-list countries without quarantine. This is preferred to a blanket reopening, exposing Thailand to any highly contagious new variants, he said.

For instance, the Vaccinated Travel Lane in Singapore enables travellers from Germany to enter without quarantine, requiring only self-isolation until the passenger receives a negative notification from a PCR test taken upon arrival.

To help travellers and let airlines fully use their fleet, provincial airports should extend their opening hours. Airports and airlines would have incurred losses staying open back when daily services were limited, Mr Wutthiphum said.

Authorities should minimise travel rules for airlines because travellers are not yet ready to comply with complicated rules, proven by their preference for road trips thus far, he said. These car trips have the potential to spread the virus even further to more destinations, said Mr Wutthiphum.

After the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand lifted the ban on domestic flights earlier this month, Nok Air has only rebounded to 10% of its normal operations, while fixed costs remain the same, he said.

"Our employees still haven't received the 7,500-baht compensation from the Social Security Fund after services were halted for almost two months. We had to offer interest-free loans for those who need cash," said Mr Wutthiphum.

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