Govt vows aviation industry boost

Govt vows aviation industry boost

Long-term assistance to help aid recovery

About 165 million passengers travelled on more than 1 million flights to and from Thailand before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country in 2019. (Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
About 165 million passengers travelled on more than 1 million flights to and from Thailand before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country in 2019. (Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

The government is hoping to accelerate the recovery of Thailand's aviation industry, which hopes to see 200 million passengers per year by 2031, Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob said on Monday.

Speaking at the seminar: "Thai Aviation Industry Conference 2021: Flying into a new era of Thai aviation", Mr Saksayam cited figures released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which said the nation is set to become the ninth-largest aviation market in the world.

The industry, which generates about 85 billion baht a year or 7.7% of Thailand's gross domestic product (GDP), employs more than 700,000 people.

Between 2012-2019, air travel in Thailand grew by an average of 9.4% per year, consistent with the increase in the number of scheduled passenger services, which went up by 7.6% each year.

Before the pandemic hit in 2019, 165 million passengers travelled on more than one million flights to and from Thailand that year, while 1.5 million tonnes of cargo were transported in and out of the country.

Thailand was connected to the world by 380 international air routes, while domestically there were 67 routes operated by various airlines.

However, successive waves of Covid outbreaks have caused demand for air travel to plummet by 64%. Mr Saksayam said international arrivals plunged by 81% from 2019 levels.

The country's Nov 1 reopening has allowed the aviation sector to recover somewhat, and to hasten its recovery the government will introduce a number of long-term assistance measures for airlines, Mr Saksayam said, though he stopped short of explaining these measures.

Separately, the IATA urged governments around to world to revoke travel bans that were introduced to curb the spread of the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus, joining a growing number of public organisations -- including the WHO -- to advise against such bans.

IATA director-general, Willie Walsh, asked governments to reconsider all Omicron measures. "The goal is to move away from the uncoordinated, evidence absent, risk-unassessed mess that travellers face," he said.

The WHO has said travel bans won't prevent the international spread of the virus but "adversely impact global health efforts during a pandemic by disincentivising countries to report and share epidemiological data".

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