Airlines hope to renew demand with crypto bet

Airlines hope to renew demand with crypto bet

The cabin crew of regional airline Thai Smile wear face masks while walking through Suvarnabhumi airport.
The cabin crew of regional airline Thai Smile wear face masks while walking through Suvarnabhumi airport.

Local airlines are keeping up with the digital currency trend in the hopes of spurring more demand next year.

Puttipong Prasarttong-Osoth, president of Bangkok Airways, said the airline previously planned to accept crypto transactions from Jan 1, 2022 by partnering with Bitkub Capital Group Holdings to enhance competitiveness through ticket sales.

However, the back-end system has to be stabilised to support such transactions and Bangkok Airways has yet to choose the type of cryptocurrencies, meaning the launch date has been delayed to later in January, he said.

The airline has a 40% load factor for the year-end period, of which more than 60% is to popular destinations in the North.

The Bangkok-Phnom Penh route, which opened on Dec 1, has recorded a 50% load factor so far in December.

"The number of passengers has started to rebound, but overall flight frequencies have recovered by just 30%. Every airline has to extend cost-saving strategies and manage flights under limited demand," said Mr Puttipong, who is also president of the Airlines Association of Thailand.

He said international passenger numbers remain weak after the country's reopening on Nov 1.

Santisuk Klongchaiya, chief executive of Thai AirAsia (TAA), said the airline has to study cryptocurrencies further before offering that payment option as this type of asset is still new.

He said the average load factor for the airline since the reopening spiked to 80-85%, but it is only operating half its total fleet.

Mr Santisuk said the fleet will be reduced by seven aircraft in January, resulting in a 10% cut of 5,000 workers to accommodate the remaining 53 aircraft. If TAA can fully operate domestic routes and gain back 60%-70% of international routes by next year, it will rehire furloughed workers by mid-2022, he said.

Mr Santisuk said the airline's recovery depends on the Chinese market, as TAA used to fly to 13 cities there.

TAA recently announced its third international flight from Don Mueang airport to Singapore under the quarantine-free "Vaccinated Travel Lanes", with three flights per week starting from Dec 29.

Nuntaporn Komonsittivate, head of commercial operations at Thai Lion Air (TLA), said the airline plans to operate flights to Singapore early next year as well as flights to China, its largest international market, from the second half of 2022. TLA's load factor this month is expected to reach 78-80%.

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