Thai Lion Air readies for resumption of travel by expanding fleet
Thai Lion Air (TLA) is adding more aircraft to its fleet this year as it gears up for international air travel while the country prepares for further reopening.
TLA chief executive Aswin Yangkirativorn said the fleet expansion plan will serve international flights in the near future which still currently depend on bilateral agreements on air travel led by government initiatives.
The airline recently received two Airbus A320neo aircraft which saw the number of aircraft in the fleet reach 10, and it is planning to obtain two more Boeing 737 aircraft within this year.
He said people in China, one of the airline's key source markets which contributed 60% prior to the pandemic, might not be able to travel overseas until the middle of next year, while the Chinese government focuses on domestic tourism.
TLA has to focus on regional markets including India, Japan, Taiwan and Singapore which show more promising signs in terms of reconnecting with Thailand.
Most importantly, the government has to roll out a concrete plan and simplify the travel process by using lessons learned from the ongoing sandbox programme, so tourists can plan their trips, while tourism businesses can properly launch their marketing strategies.
TLA is one of seven local airlines that asked for a 5-billion-baht soft loan last year to help support payroll for their 2,500 workers.
"Even though airlines haven't yet received the soft loan, we remain confident that TLA can maintain our business," Mr Aswin said.
"If Thailand can reopen and more international flights can operate, then the airline and tourism industry will bounce back stronger."
For the domestic market, Nuntaporn Komonsittivate, TLA's head of commercial operations, said the airline is monitoring the situation as an improvement should be seen with two national holidays and school holidays this month.
At present, TLA operates 13 domestic routes. It will resume two routes -- Hat Yai-Udon Thani and U-tapao to Chiang Mai in the last quarter.
She said on average flight frequencies were 30 per day with 5-6 hours of aircraft utilisation per day, compared to 10-11 hours prior to the pandemic.
More frequencies will be added to popular destinations like Chiang Mai, Hat Yai and Chiang Rai in October.