Thai Lion Air (TLA) intends to launch a new hub for international flights from Suvarnabhumi airport, with the first route to Jakarta set to launch before Songkran and the introduction of other overseas destinations by the end of the second quarter.
The airline uses Don Mueang airport as its hub for domestic flights, as do most local low-cost airlines, and plans to continue to do so for routes within Thailand.
As TLA has an international cargo service at Suvarnabhumi, there was an opportunity to carry both cargo and passengers from connecting cross-border flights, said Nuntaporn Komonsittivate, TLA's head of commercial operations.
TLA's fleet has been reduced from 30 aircraft in 2019 to today's 11, of which two Airbus A330s are currently stationed at Suvarnabhumi to serve the cargo business, which saw 20-30% growth during the pandemic.
Ms Nuntaporn said the Jakarta route will start with one flight per week, to see what demand is like.
The additional routes in the second half of this year could be Singapore, India or Japan, depending on the travel restrictions in each country.
Besides Jakarta, flights bound for Tokyo's Narita airport might also use Suvarnabhumi as a hub, as they have to fly with the Airbus A330.
Ms Nuntaporn said India also has potential, thanks to cargo demand and talks over an air travel bubble with Thailand, so TLA plans to resume flights to Mumbai and is considering adding a route to New Delhi.
The airline has also introduced a new domestic flight from Bangkok to Nan four times a week, starting from March 25.
Even though this route already has three airlines sharing the market, TLA believes there's enough demand as advance bookings are quite strong at around 20%.
TLA intends to maintain its load factor at 75-80% this year, up from 70-75% in 2021.
Ms Nuntaporn said the airline has to effectively manage fuel consumption amid surging oil prices.
Fuel normally accounts for 30% of overall operational costs. The airline has to make forecasts and merge some flights which have a weak load factor, or push sales to drive more demand by cooperating with partners.
In terms of the 300-baht tourist entry fee which the Tourism and Sports Ministry has asked airlines to charge, Ms Nuntaporn said the agreement hasn't yet been concluded.
Airlines are also concerned that such a system may have loopholes or mistakes when implemented.
In other news, with Thailand yesterday reporting record numbers of Covid-19 infections, TLA chief executive Aswin Yangkirativorn said the industry did not want to face another lockdown after having struggled for the past two years.
"It's time to move forward," Mr Aswin said. "But if lockdown has to be reimplemented, TLA has to remain resilient and make more cost savings to maintain its business."